CAIRO, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Egypt witnessed on Thursday a record 774 single-day new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections confirmed in the country since mid-February to 15,003, according to the health ministry.
It is the third consecutive day for Egypt's COVID-19 daily infections to exceed 700.
Meanwhile, 16 patients died from the novel coronavirus in Egypt in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 696, said Khaled Megahed, the health ministry's spokesman, in a statement.
In addition, 223 patients were completely cured and discharged from hospitals on Thursday, increasing the total recoveries to 4,217, Megahed added.
Earlier in the day, Egyptian Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar explained that the actual number of COVID-19 infections in Egypt could be five times that of confirmed ones.
"The actual figure of coronavirus infections in Egypt could be more than 71,000," the minister said in a televised conference attended by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Citing data analysis, Abdel-Ghaffar expected the number of infections to start declining in Egypt from mid-July.
Egypt announced its first confirmed COVID-19 infection on Feb. 14 and the first death on March 8, both foreigners.
The most populous Arab country is currently implementing a nationwide nine-hour curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan that ends on May 23.
Starting May 24, the first day of the post-Ramadan Eid al-Fitr holiday, the evening curfew will be 13 hours for six days in order to maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings amid the rise in the number of the COVID-19 cases.
From May 30, the curfew will be reduced to 10 hours from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two weeks, before the cabinet will consider further easing restrictions and gradually resuming suspended activities.
The Egyptian government has recently started to ease restrictions and gradually reopened services and offices that have been halted since mid-March amid a coexistence plan to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming services, businesses and economic activities.
On May 16, the Egyptian authorities received the third batch of medical aid from the Chinese government to help the North African country with its fight against the COVID-19 epidemic.
Earlier in the day, Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang said Chinese companies in the North African country take strict precautionary measures to maintain their work momentum in different projects amid the COVID-19 outbreak.