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Fighting coronavirus: people before profit

Despite the closure of schools, halting of flights, a reduction in workers’ presence in the public sector and government institutions, these and other measures taken by the state to fight the coronavirus epidemic will not be enough to deal with the imminent dangers if the virus continues to spread, particularly given the modest capacity of the health sector.

The state’s class biases and its repressive choices still stand in the way of taking more radical and effective measures in the face of this crisis.

A few days ago the government published a package of economic measures to reduce the economic impact of the epidemic, including a reduction in the price of natural gas and electricity, a fixed ceiling on the price of electricity for industrial use for 3-5 years, provision of a billion Egyptian pounds to support exporters during the months of March and April, postponement of payments on property taxes for industrial and tourist establishments for 3 months, a reduction in stamp duty on the stock exchange and cuts to capital gains tax, in addition to other incentives. This comes at a time when the prices of supplies for infection prevention and cleansing are multiplying and hundreds of thousands will lose their livelihoods as a result of the exceptional measures to deal with the epidemic without any compensation from the state at all.

We are witnessing the greed of the private sector as employers’ insist that workers attend their workplaces, so public transport remains crowded and thus a potential hotbed of the epidemic. We have also seen the state’s refusal to implement escalating demands to alleviate the overcrowding in detention centres and prison by immediately releasing on parole all of those held in pretrial detention and those who have completed half their sentences.

Therefore we call on all political and social forces to back these demands which we consider necessary if the state is serious about fighting the epidemic in Egypt.

Our demands:

Reduction in overcrowding in prisons and places of detention to allow social distancing, hygiene and cleansing. This can only be achieved by expanding the release of those in pretrial detention, along with prisoners who do not pose a danger to society, and those prisoners who are elderly or suffer chronic diseases for whom remaining in prison poses a danger to them.

Temporary nationalisation of private health facilities and intensive care rooms in order to prepare for efforts to control the epidemic.

Utilisation of hotels and tourist facilities to combat the spread of the epidemic.

Imposition of a special tax 1 percent tax on all those whose wealth exceeds 2 million pounds in order to combat the epidemic.

Suspension of religious events and collective prayers in places of worship.
Provision of prevention, disinfection, sterilization and personal hygiene items to poor families through ration cards for free.

Government support for virus detection tests so that they are available to all.

Paid leave for heads of families with children for as long as educational establishments continues to be suspended, including for those working in the private sector.

The private sector must be required to temporarily employ workers from the home without reductions in pay.

Financial support of not less than 1500 pounds per month per person for daily-paid workers and the unemployed in order to suspend public transport and the Cairo Metro for cleansing.

Suspension of payments on utility bills, not only to reduce the burden on families, but to reduce the chances of transmission of infection to the collectors of bills and we also demand a reduction in the burden of housing rents.

The Revolutionary Socialists
20 March 2020

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