Few people have been left unaffected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with a range of emotional, financial, and health-related impacts among the most widely reported side effects.
For some families, the pandemic has meant making significant changes in everyday routines due to financial hardships. In other families, the uncertainty and inability to interact with anyone outside the immediate family has meant increased anxiety, whether among adults or children, tensions in parental relationships, or general fear.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) has released the results of a series of surveys that have gathered localised information on the wide-ranging and far-reaching effects of the global pandemic.
The results of the surveys were gathered via phone interviews, and aim to highlight the obstacles Egyptian families face due to the pandemic.
CAPMAS found that the pandemic has led to drastic reductions in work hours, and even to job losses, with this in turn affecting income and general family well-being. It found that a total of 61.9% of employees aged between 15 and 64 were affected by workplace changes off the back of the coronavirus pandemic, with about 26% losing their jobs.
Moreover, the age-range that suffered the most from the job security point of view was the 25-34 age range, with about 67.5% of the surveyed citizens reporting that their jobs were affected.
The most disadvantaged workers were those who had not completed high-school, with their unemployment peak at 66.4% during the economic crisis.
About 73.5% decline in income has been reported since the crisis hit, while almost 25% of respondents said that their income was not affected. Only 1% of surveyed people reported an increase in their income since the start of the crisis.
CAPMAS notes that the older the employee’s age, the lower the economic impact of the pandemic. The agency noted that 87.9% of people aged between 15 and 24 years old saw a decrease in their salaries, while a total of 56.5% of those aged between 55 and 64 reported a salary decrease.
Meanwhile, about 55.7% of citizens noted that their work hours fell precipitously, while about 26% of these citizens had completely lost their jobs.
The crisis has also led to a change in family incomes, on the back of the effects of the precautionary measures on economic activities.
A majority 60.3% reported that the preventive measures adopted to curb the virus’ spread led to their incomes decreasing. A total of 35.5% of respondents reported income declines due to job loss, with 31.5% reporting income declines due to low demand on the product or service they provide.
CAPMAS also conducted a survey to gather information on how people identify the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus. This looked into awareness of the virus, as well as general knowledge, attitudes, and related behaviours among citizens.
The agency found that 99.9% of respondents were aware of the existence of the novel virus, with 95% of participants identifying fever as the main symptom of infection. Over half of participants followed new developments related to the virus using state-run news channels.
The majority of participants, or about 96.3%, could correctly identify symptoms and ways to prevent infection with the coronavirus. A total of 65% of families reported that they would visit the nearest hospital in case they have suspect a case, while 16% of the families believed that they should use the Ministry of Health’s hotline to report any suspected cases.
About two-thirds, or 67.6%, of families were aware of the Ministry of Health’s hotline. Over half, or 52.8%, of respondents were extremely confident that a curfew is the most effective measure to curb the virus’ spread. A total of 42.3% of families believed that closing public areas where large gatherings are most likely to take place is the most effective measure against spread.
CAPMAS also reported that the coronavirus’ rapid spread has altered consumer habits in the short term, although it added that this could potentially have a long-term impact.
In a third survey, the agency assessed the impact of the coronavirus on the consumption habits of Egyptian families. It found that one in every four consumers, or 25%, said the pandemic changed his food consumption habits, driving him to cook, eat, shop, and think about food differently.
The consumption of meat, fish, and chicken has significantly fallen, by as much as 17-25%, while the consumption of non-food products such as clothing, school, and transportation has seen a 27-33% drop. However, an increase in the number of people who reported consuming sugar, rice, oil, and legumes was reported.
The CAPMAS survey also indicated that 70% of the decrease in food consumption was a result of income declines among families, either due to salary cuts or job losses. At the same time, there was a reported 90% decrease in consumption of other products, as the result of the state-imposed precautionary measures.
A higher percentage of people said that their use of detergents and disinfectants had significantly increased since the start of the pandemic, in part due to the greater focus on hygiene and sanitisation.
The survey also looked into the measures taken by Egyptian families in cases where the coronavirus forced them into financial hardship. A total of 40% of respondents said that they borrowed money from their relatives to overcome financial problems.
More than half of the families anticipated that they would see a decrease in incomes in the coming three months, while 46.4% of respondents believed that their incomes will remain the same.
Meanwhile, 45.3% of responding families said their income declines were as a result of the precautionary measures taken to curb the virus spread. One in every three families said they do not have an adequate income to meet their needs, while 66.8% of families said they can meet their needs.
Asked about the measures they have taken to overcome the financial problems, 92.5% of respondents said they bought cheaper food products. About 89.8% of families have also reduced their consumption of meat and chicken, while 19.8% of families have reduced the size of every meal.
Both global and country-specific interventions of varying degrees and impacts have been taken to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.
Locally, Egypt has taken several measures to support local industries meant to preserve and re-adjust product supply chains, with solutions harnessing locally-available resources and goods.
Beyond the immediate interventions addressing the current emergency situations, countries may take this opportunity to pursue permanent solutions and promote transformation towards more sustainable food systems.