Nestled in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, Egypt’s landmark Egyptian Museum has long been a major tourist draw.
The museum holds the priceless objects of the 18th dynasty Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamun, including his golden mask, a chariot and the throne.
On Monday, cleaning crews descended upon the facility, dousing it with disinfectants as fears mount over the spread of the novel coronavirus, The Global Times reported.
Sporting white coats, gloves, and face masks, the men sprayed sanitizers across the vast museum halls, home to thousands of precious relics spanning Egypt’s prehistoric era through the Roman period, the report said.
The outbreak is a tourist disaster for Egypt, which was just getting back on its feet since the political unrest of the Arab Spring and the strictures of an IMF bailout.
“Egypt is safe,” local cab drivers will tell you, “anything else is fake news.”
The artifacts were kept behind locked glass vitrines as staff proceeded with the disinfection procedures.
“The museum has been ordered shut from today (Monday) until March 31 and we started the cleaning operations on exposed surfaces,” said Sabah Sediq, the museum’s director.
“We will be using special materials designed to clean and protect the artifacts in restoration labs,” Sediq said.
Similar cleaning operations are to be carried out at archeological sites and museums across Egypt to guard against the Covid-19 pandemic, the report said.
On Saturday, the antiquities ministry said disinfection and sterilization measures had already been taken at prominent ancient sites, including the Kom al-Shoqafa catacombs and the Roman victory column of “Pompey’s Pillar” in the coastal city of Alexandria.
The operations have also swept hotels, sea and airports, metro stations, and other sites across Egypt, the report said.
Egypt’s health ministry has so far registered 14 deaths out of 327 confirmed cases.
Authorities have imposed tough measures to limit social interaction in the country of 100 million inhabitants, closing schools and universities and ordering cafes, restaurants, sporting clubs, and malls to close by 7 pm.
Air traffic was halted from last Thursday until the end of March and authorities have shuttered all mosques and churches and banned communal prayer gatherings for at least two weeks.