Egyptian parliament considers making face masks compulsory due to coronavirus

Egyptian parliament representatives are discussing whether to recommend the general public wear face masks as a way to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus, a MP said on Tuesday.

Mohamed Al-Amary, the head of parliament’s health affairs committee, told Ahram Online that he drafted a law that will help the state take greater precautionary measures necessary to contain the spread of the pandemic.

The draft law, signed by a tenth of the House of Representatives’ deputies, will be an amendment to the Law No. 137 of 1958 regulating the precautionary measures on the prevention of epidemic diseases, Al-Amary said.

“The amended law aims to reinforce the capacity of Egypt’s health authorities in preventing a mass outbreak of epidemic diseases such as the coronavirus,” added Al-Amary.

“The legislative amendment represents a quick response from MPs who want to contain the coronavirus infections in a more effective way.”

The recent weeks have shown that the Egyptian health ministry is in pressing need of greater powers to help it effectively contain the outbreak, he said.

“As a result, I proposed amending articles 25 and 26 of the law on the prevention of epidemic diseases, and also adding three new articles to achieve the objectives required in this respect,” Al-Amary explained.

“First, the law will grant health authorities the power to make it obligatory for citizens to wear face masks and follow other preventive measures outside housing units and once the health minister finds it necessary to help stem the spread of the epidemic.”

According to the draft law, citizens who refuse to wear face masks outside the home will be fined, in line with the rules and measures to be imposed by the health minister in this respect, Al-Amary said.

It will also allow health authorities to take the measures necessary to get rid of the bodies of citizens who die because of epidemic diseases, he added.

“The law will state that the bodies of dead patients be buried under health supervision and in a way that prevents the spread of the epidemic and respects the dignity of the dead and religious and social traditions at the same time,” Al-Amary said.

The two new articles will work on toughening penalties for violating the amended law, he added.

“They will also toughen penalties against any acts that might block or postpone the burying of the corpses of citizens who die because of epidemic diseases such as the coronavirus,” said Al-Amary.

Informed sources told Ahram Online that Al-Amary’s draft law could be discussed and approved in parliament’s plenary meeting on Wednesday. They also said that MPs discussed the draft law in their meeting with Health Minister Hala Zayed on April 13.

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