Feature: Egyptian restaurants deliver free meals to low-income people, medics amid COVID-19 crisis

Source: Xinhua| 2020-04-09 01:16:22|Editor: ZD
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Free meals for low-income people are prepared in a restaurant during COVID-19 outbreak in Cairo, Egypt, April 4, 2020. Egyptian Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday 128 new COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, bringing the total infections in the country to 1,450. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

by Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, April 8 (Xinhua) -- "We are with you until the crisis is over," read a large sign hanging above the front door of a restaurant in Heliopolis district of the capital Cairo, offering a takeaway free lunch to the people whose incomes have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The charitable idea came to Mahmoud al-Masry, the restaurant's owner, when he realized how massive the crisis was after the government temporarily suspended schools and universities, halted flights, closed entertainment places and shut down crowded marketplaces over the past few weeks.

"I know that the incomes of many people have been affected. I feel responsible to stand by my country and support my fellow citizens during the crisis as much as I can," said Masry.

"We put the sign to encourage shy people in need to come in and pick up their free lunch," Masry said, adding that "people were reluctant in the beginning but now we provide free lunch for about 50 families on a daily basis."

The restaurant's kitchen looked like a beehive with busy chefs and workers preparing takeaway lunch bags.

Sameh Mostafa, one of the staff and an assistant manager, expressed happiness to assist people with low incomes during the crisis, noting that they disinfect the restaurant daily, wear gloves and maintain personal hygiene to ensure the cleanliness of the food.

"The meal for one person consists of rice, a piece of grilled chicken, bread, salad and soup. The family meal consists of a whole chicken and more rice and bread, in addition to tissues and plastic spoons and forks," said the 30-year-old man.

The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Egypt until Tuesday night is 1,450, including 94 deaths and 276 recoveries.

On Wednesday, the Egyptian cabinet decided to extend the curfew that started on March 25 for another two weeks until April 23, but reduced it from 11 hours to 10.

The Egyptian government and people value the efforts of doctors and nurses, referring to them as "the Egyptian white army."

Catherine Raafat, a young woman who owns a small restaurant with her elder brother, started about two weeks ago an initiative to provide free meals to medics at nearby public hospitals in appreciation of their exceptional efforts.

The young lady said she was inspired by a video online about how Chinese medics were received like national heroes upon their return from Wuhan following their successful control of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We started with delivering 40 meals to the medics of a nearby cancer hospital and then we delivered about 65 meals to the medical staff at a fever hospital, both in nearby Giza province," Raafat told Xinhua at her restaurant in downtown Cairo.

She added that her restaurant is currently preparing about 400 meals, of which 350 will be delivered to hospitals and 50 to low-income daily workers, with each meal consisting of a piece of chicken, rice, salad, cooked vegetables, soup and bread.

The lady said she welcomes other restaurants to join to support Egypt's medics during the crisis.

Located in Imbaba neighborhood in Giza, one of the most popular local restaurants supported the country's efforts to combat COVID-19 in a different way.

The owner shut down the ever-crowded restaurant in mid-March for a couple of weeks and gave all his staff a paid vacation, which is in line with the country's social distancing measures.

"We're all in the same boat, including the government, the people, the rich and the poor. So, we all should stand side by side and join hands to overcome the crisis," said Nasser al-Prince, the restaurant's owner.

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