Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

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Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by DJKeefy »

Government accused of pretending everything was fine in bid not to frighten away tourists and their hard currency.

Egypt's ancient city of Luxor has witnessed a semi-lockdown since Monday as tours of monuments, cultural events and balloon trips were cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus.

Specialised medical teams from Cairo and Qena have descended on the lobbies and restaurants of hotels and cruises in the area to stage haphazard and random tests among both workers and guests.

The arrival of the medics along with the cancellation has led many tourists to leave the upper Egyptian city and either head to Cairo or the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada and Sharm al-Shiekh.

On Monday, the health ministry said the total number of confirmed cases in Egypt had risen to 59.

From the start of the worldwide outbreak earlier this year, the Egyptian government denied the existence of any positive cases in Luxor and instead began to prepare for the winter season, but this blinkered focus on bringing in hard currency has now backfired.

On Friday and Saturday, the city, home to several of Egypt’s most iconic temples, the Valley of the Kings and King Tutankhamun’s tomb, was announced as the source of most of the cases now in Egypt.

Forty-five passengers and crew members aboard a Nile cruise ship, the A Sara, tested positive for the coronavirus.

They were escorted off the ship on Saturday by the military and transported to one of the country’s isolation hospitals in Marsa Matruh, on the north coast.

Authorities on Tuesday said that 25 of those who had initially tested positive for the virus had since tested negative.

On Wednesday, Egyptian authorities said that 46 French and US tourists who had remained quarantined on the A Sara vessel had flown home.


Extremely scared

The outbreak of the virus, as well as the random medical tests, has halted life in most of the usually crowded city, with the exception of the one-day trips organised by tourist companies when visitors spend a whole day in Luxor and then return to either Cairo or the Red Sea.

Thomas, a British tourist from Manchester, told Middle Eye that after their experiences his group decided to force their tourism company to relocate them back to Cairo to spend the rest of their vacation there.

“We woke to find armed plain-clothes policemen closing the hotel doors and telling us that we could not leave until everyone was checked," he said.

"At first, we thought that there were people who had tested positive, but later the management just chose some Egyptian guests and convinced them to go and do the tests.”

After four hours, the medical team left the hotel, having taken samples, Thomas added, saying that his family had been extremely scared and decided to leave the city, a decision that other families agreed upon.


Disaster for locals

Luxor has been striving since the turmoil unleashed by the country's revolution in 2011 to regain its shine as a touristic destination.

Mohamed al-Asaby, an employee at the Cairo-based Chamber of Tourism, told MEE that the recovery was now under threat after 70 to 80 percent of reservations in both hotels and cruises ship were cancelled over the last 10 days.

Tourism is one of Egypt’s main sources of hard currency, with the winter season in Upper Egypt signalling peak season in the ancient cities.

Thousands of locals in the cities are economically dependent on tourism as their source of living.

The cruise ships carry tourists from Luxor, passing by several rural areas like Edfu and Kom Obo where there are two famous temples, and then descending to Aswan in the south.

Along the journey, they provide a major source of income for locals in the winter season, with many males and females employed as seasonal cleaners, package handlers, drivers, kitchen assistants, or even tour guides.

“The owners of the cruise ships usually have few permanent staff, but hire the rest at the beginning of every new season,” said Sameh, a cruise ship worker who was laid off by his company after 50 percent of their bookings were cancelled.

“This is disastrous for many households, not only in Luxor but also in all of upper Egypt, many young men from Qena and Asyut come to Luxor and Aswan to work in this season.”


'There should have been checkups'

Another worker who resigned after fearing for his safety told MEE that he and nine other staff had quit over concerns they might get infected by the virus amid a lack of awareness or social insurance if they became ill.

"There was panic after we heard that one case infected 33 Egyptians, all of whom were workers,” Ibrahim, who worked on the Steigenberger Minerva, said.

However, Ismail, who still works on one of the British-owned cruises, said that he would be working until the season ended, otherwise he would return home with empty pockets.

“Several of bookings have been cancelled," he said. "Currently, the companies have decreased the number of packages and are looking to attract local groups [Egyptians] with lower prices in order to save what can be saved.”

Ismail’s cousin, Arabi, who works as a freelance tour guide with companies who book him, said that since the announcement of the semi-outbreak on Saturday, only a few groups came to the Karnak Temple where he works.

“Currently most of the tourists at the Temple are either on the one-day tours or are solo travellers,” he said.

Both Ismail and Arabi blame the government for the current situation.

“There should have been checkups on the tourists before they enter the country, so as to avoid all this mess,” they said.


'There are no campaigns or announcements'

In addition to the fear of going back to the post-2011 period, where tourism was negatively affected due to the political turmoil, sheer panic has overwhelmed many locals due to the indecision and lack of precautions implemented by the government.

“They kept ignoring that there were possible cases until people started to be sick,” Sabry, a high school student in Luxor told MEE.

“There are no campaigns or announcements to show what people should do in case a serious outbreak takes place.”

“Not all people here have access to the internet and can browse the WHO websites,” he said, adding that there are no measures being taken in hospitals or schools to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

The concerns were echoed by Kareem al-Shams, a doctor at Luxor General Hospital.

“None of the staff, including me, are trained to deal with a corona-infected case," he told MEE.

"We don’t have suitable equipment for basic surgeries and operations, let alone a deadly and highly contagious virus.”

“We must get dozens of cases of people complaining of cold symptoms and we send them away with antibiotics or flu medicine.

“Our reception for the emergency room is built for 100 people but more than 300 people wait in it.

“Imagine if there is one positive case,” he added.

Source: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coro ... ak-tourism


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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by newcastle »

I’d be a tad wary of this sensationalist article. MEE are known MB sympathisers and frequent publishers of anti-Egypt propaganda.

I’m not saying it’s a pack of lies....but, according to my sources in Luxor, the article grossly exaggerates what is actually happening in the city.

Having said that, I maintain my view that Egypt is heading for an epidemic of serious proportions....not that you’re likely to hear this from the government.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Major Thom »

It seems there is panic all over to be honest, it was announced yesterday we here in Cyprus had 4 cases, all brought in from either the UK or Italy. People are going bonkers for some reasonor other. News spread by social media is fuelling the flames, mainly half truths. I read that Egypt is really giving Europeans s--t at the moment especially in the villages, running indoors when a European walks past and whispering Cronavirus. We got sent a short mobile phone clip of a group of ladies rushing indoors as the person walked past them in their village. You hear of men surrounding Europeans like baying hounds and chanting Cronovirus, how bloody stupid, ignorant, and childish. Once we had positive tests, early booking dropped by 40%, hotels, restaurants are soashing prices, even cinemas are regulating audiences. Two big charity marathons have been cancelled. So like everywhere else panic is setting in here too. Why people are buying toilet rolls by the dozen is beyond me, but people say that if someone sneezes or coughs, six others in the vacinity s--t themselves. Most of the borders between the North and South are now closed. So while we think of panic, it seems to be everywhere. The main difference is, the health service in Egypt is not the best and they still seem to have a lot of learning to do, and like one poster states information is scarce in the media. I would have thought information from a real and proper outlet is a must, our Health Authority updates its information and advice at least twice a day and it has its own dedicated phone number for those seeking advice. So not too bad.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by crewmeal »

Do they have a Daily Mail equivalent in Egypt?

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by carrie »

Well I have noticed no panic. no one has passed comments to me about Corona, everyone is much more concerned with the forecast storm.
Actually a little brighter today than yesterday, I tell a lie, the wind has just got up and a lot of sand in the air.
I am sure MT that now you are a fully trained first responder the Cypriots have nothing to fear.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Major Thom »

Carrie get among the local in the villages more, and not just the normal cliques around Luxor, read an article by DJ ec etc. We have nothing like the infections Egypt has or is being reported, (to hold on to the tourist cash) We are with our Health Authority and get bullitins frquently day by day, the Responders are well prepared, with Charcoal Filtered Face Masks, Surgical Gloves, Contained Face Glasses, and Head Gear along with full disposable suits. So far more prepared than Luxor judging by the pictures in the media. I personally believe they are not ready or prepared as much as they say, even a Dr. at the General admits they are under prepared with few PPE and are having to give patients Flu medication. Here our schools and Universities are closed from tonight, all public gatherings of over 70 are banned, hospitals are not allowing visitors, the precautions go on and on, and that is with only 4 victims up to last night. How would you keep and Egyptian in Isolation for more than a couple of days? One very good thing I saw was the government have collected Shisha Pipes from outlets, excellent they could be a very high risk! They are also putting medic to patrol hotels in Luxor, but if you read DJ's account it seems Egypt says one thing then contridicts it. DJ's article (FB) I found full of both facts and good advice, apart from what is happening, and really he should post further. He is not in Luxor so can offer good facts and advice without fear from the authorities who are once again trying to gag everyone. All this about Luxor locals leaving for the Red Sea made me laugh, they may be carrying the virus and have not shown symptoms yet, so will almost inevitably spread to these areas they are fleeing to. Finally the Cypriots have many things regarding the virus, especially when the season takes off, if it does. All Cyprus cases have been brought in by tourists or Cypriots visiting families overseas. So if people stay complacent no matter where they live, they will be the ones to suffer later.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by HEPZIBAH »

I don't think that one can (or should) really compare how prepared one country is over another to face this crisis.

Whilst this virus is new and has cought many on the hop, each country is coming from a different starting point: geographical - location and size; social;
educational; financial; normal healthcare; etc. They (we) all have to deal with it as best they can given the knowledge and facilities available. From the outset, mistakes have been made and lessons learned. Some countries are able to benefit from this because they already have a good baseline to work from.
So, for example, comparing Egypt and Cyprus / Luxor and Paphos really doesn't mean much and isnt that helpful.

One of the things that has really bugged me when reading about the subject is the blame game. 'They brought it from xxx' 'It came with tourists from xxx' almost as though individuals are deliberately spreading the virus. There will be many symptomless carriers - people who have been infected but do not know it because they have not yet shown signs of illness and indeed may never show signs. In a way they are most to be feared. I just hope that those that are laying blame at the feet of others don't also become spreaders themselves.
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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Who2 »

Part of an email received today from a business acquaintance based in Luxor... 8)


"It’s amazing the false news being spread about Luxor

We’ve had good business meetings with representatives from the WHO about the outbreak and necessary precautions – time will of cause will tell but it’s being handled in a very efficient way here and if the tourist keep away we should be ok – as of this morning total positive cases in Egypt are 33 with a further 59 in Quarantine and 2 dead – 1 up north somewhere and 1 in Hurghada – (figures from the WHO and not local government)

Interestingly it appears that the virus spreads less in hot climates which is helping here in upper Egypt although we’re in the middle of another storm at the moment – that piece of info straight from the WHO – which is why they think things will ease up once Europe and the North of the middle East warms up – especially Iraq and Iran
"The Salvation of Mankind lies in making everything the responsibility of All"
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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by newcastle »

Egypt’s in a bit of a bind really.

Reducing the movement of tourists might be sensible....but it ain’t gonna happen because tourism is such a vital sector of the economy. Of course tourists might take matters into their own hands and not come.

If - or, in my view, when - it reaches epidemic proportions in Egypt there’s always a possibility that flights to and from Egypt will be restricted. That would be really annoying for me personally.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Marydoll58 »

Hi all. Totally confused now . We are due in Luxor this Saturday morning. Spoke with my insurance , they are okay with my travel. The airline is still flying into Luxor. FCO. have no ban on travel. What do I do ? Advice pleas.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by HEPZIBAH »

Marydoll, I appreciate your quandary. This close to travel it really is a difficult decision for you.

Have you booked through a company? If so, you should give them a call and see what they are advising at the moment too.
If you have booked your holiday independently, you need to check out the cancellation policies for your flight and accommodation. A number of airlines seem to be doing their best to be helpful and accommodating by offering free changes of dates etc. I believe Egyptair is one of those.

Clearly there is Corona Virus in Egypt, and although there are figures being broadcast, it is hard to know how realistic they are (actually I think that for many countries at the moment). However, it seems to me the issue is not so much about getting the virus, but the effect of any isolation and/or hospitalisation or quarantine might have, compounded by the question of ever decreasing flights around the world.

Ultimately, you have to weigh up all the pro's and con's and make the best decision for yourself, and any travelling companions. If you can't go now, hopefully you will be able to go in the future.
Good luck. Let us know what you decide.
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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by A-Four »

Yes, very good sound advice here from Hepzibah. I do not wish to ask your age here, but if you are over 65 years old, I would think very carefully before leaving the U.K.,..,............which is more important ?

I live in London, and my local bus stop into the City is just to the front of the Tower of London, today I was really surprised to see that tourism was down by 75%, as I travelled through the City, it seemed very quiet, the working population seemed to be down by at least 50%, so things are changing fast, though little is being reported in the local media.. As the saying goes,....we ain't seen nothing yet.

What I found strange was that many people were wearing scarfs but not over their mouths and noses, I saw less that ten people wearing gloves of any type.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by newcastle »

Marydoll58 wrote:
Thu Mar 12, 2020 4:04 pm
Hi all. Totally confused now . We are due in Luxor this Saturday morning. Spoke with my insurance , they are okay with my travel. The airline is still flying into Luxor. FCO. have no ban on travel. What do I do ? Advice pleas.
Difficult one. I doubt you’d be fully compensated if you cancel on the grounds that you MAY have problems. Apart from the effects the virus is having on tours etc. there’s always the possibility of you being quarantined....not a happy situation as the FCO points out in their latest advice.

If the FCO advice changes while you’re in Luxor there may be some cover. Depends what happens.

If you’re fit and healthy, and a disrupted holiday is a nuisance rather than a catastrophe, I’d be inclined to cross my fingers and go.....but then I tend to be fatalistic!

People need to remember that, for the vast majority (I.e. the fit and healthy) the Corona virus is no worse than the flu.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Who2 »

Marydoll, I would be interested in your carrier and if are you flying direct to Luxor ?
and from which UK airport..
Thanks in advance.... 8)
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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by newcastle »

A-Four wrote:
Thu Mar 12, 2020 4:48 pm
What I found strange was that many people were wearing scarfs but not over their mouths and noses, I saw less that ten people wearing gloves of any type.
What I find strange is that despite the masses of information being circulated, some people are still going around covering their mouths...thinking this helps avoid catching the virus.

It doesn’t. It may reduce the likelihood of you infecting anyone else IF YOU ARE ALREADY INFECTED.

As for gloves, the scientific advice is that wearing them probably does more harm than good.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Marydoll58 »

Hi All. I am going to go ahead with my plan,checked up with FCO latest updates,no change there. We are flying with Turkish airlines , Edinburgh/Istanbul/Luxor. I have done all the bookings separately, so at the moment no agent is offering cancelation without loss . At this moment I think I would be just as well in Luxor . than in sunny Scotland. where everything seems to be going down the pan. Thank you all for your input.

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by newcastle »

Good luck!

And remember.....Fortune Favours the Brave!! :up

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Major Thom »

I have come to the conclusion anything given out in Egyptian media or press is a pack of lies, 45 tested positive on the cruise but only 59 cases in total! Rubbish complete crap. This is a Country putting wealth before health!,

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by carrie »

If it's rubbish/lies why quote it?

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Re: Panic in Luxor: Ancient city found to be centre of Egypt's coronavirus outbreak

Post by Dusak »

I was in the bank on Tuesday, standing at the counter two cash delivery men moved way from me, even thought the guys behind the counter, one of which was, for the first time, wearing a full face mask and disposable gloves, were insisting I did not have the virus as I lived here. I did some filming that day, and yes, I did notice locals covering their mouths or moving away from my approach.
Life is your's to do with as you wish- do not let other's try to control it for you. Count Dusak- 1345.

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