By Mahmoud Mourad and Nadeen Ebrahim
KAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt is hurrying to protect its important tourism sector and to assure travelers that it can be safely visited on a cruise ship on the Nile following the outbreak of the corona virus.
Officials said Saturday the coronavirus was found in 45 people, including foreign tourists, after the ship reached the southern city of Luxor. Until then, Egypt had reported only three confirmed cases of the virus.
Ministers of Tourism, Health and Civil Aviation visited a temple on Sunday in central Luxor, beyond the Nile from the Valley of the Kings, where pharaohs were buried in rock-cut tombs.
"We are here to respond to rumors that there are no tourists and people are afraid to come. Thank God the people are here," said Khaled al-Anani, the Minister of Tourism and Antiques, state television Before the camera panned to the show, tourists queued to enter the site.
"No to exaggerated reactions. Our eyes are on everything," said Health Minister Hala Zayed.
The tourism industry is an important driver of economic growth and has recovered after a decline after the 2011 uprising, in which the long-time head of state Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.
According to the central bank, sales in the fiscal year ended last July were at a record high of $ 12.57 billion.
At another top tourist location, the Giza Pyramids outside of Cairo, guides and souvenir vendors said business had slowed last month due to fears of the corona virus.
Ali Hamouda Hassan, who visits the pyramids on horseback, said he now has "a customer every two days".
The virus-infected cruise ship was towed outside of Luxor and quarantined, state media reported. Those who tested positive were flown to northern Egypt in a military plane for quarantine.
Officials say the newly announced cases and other cases discovered in people walking through Egypt come from a Taiwanese US. Citizen who returned to Taiwan in February after traveling on the cruise ship.
Karim ElMinabaway, President of Emeco Travel Egypt, said there were few cancellations of travelers abroad by the end of June, but tourism could be hard hit.
"We're getting 10% of what we expected for the first quarter of next year," he said.
The spread of the corona virus outside Egypt could have other economic implications, including Egyptians operating abroad, a major source of foreign currency transfers.
Hundreds of people queued up in Cairo's main public blood laboratory on Sunday, which Saudi Arabia required to help Egyptian workers prove they didn't have a corona virus.
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