Egypt’s health ministry has unveiled plans to open 24-hour pharmacies in more than 300 towns and cities across the country by 2020, in a bid to address growing demand.
The pharmacies will be run by an arm of the ministry that is charged with implementing the national strategy to tackle the rising tide of drug abuse.
The new centres will be located in all of Egypt’s 24 districts, including the capital, Cairo.
“We are moving toward opening 24-hospitals, 24-day clinics and 24-hours pharmacies in our areas,” said Khaled Nasser, the ministry’s deputy director of health services.
“This will improve access to medicine for everyone in Egypt.”
Pharmacy stores will also be allowed to sell medicines on their premises, and pharmacies will have to have licences to sell drugs in their respective districts.
The plan follows a nationwide campaign launched by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi last year, which included pharmacies opening 24 hours a day.
Nasser said the pharmacies will not be limited to only the capital and other major cities, but will be able to operate in other parts of the country as well.
“The plan will include expanding the number of pharmacies in other districts as well,” he said.
The move comes amid growing concerns about drug abuse in Egypt, which has been plagued by the country’s worst outbreak of drug-related violence since the start of the war in 2011.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there were 7,932 drug-resistant infections and 5,842 deaths in the country in 2016, and 2,936 people died of drug overdoses in the first half of 2017.
In October, the United States imposed a ban on imports of certain antibiotics from Egypt, citing concerns about the rise in drug-resistance.
Egypt has also been the scene of a spate of anti-government protests since President Mohamed Morsi took power in 2013.
The country has also witnessed the rise of the Islamic State group and the rise to power of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi.
Egypt’s health minister also promised to improve access for the countrys citizens to medicines through a number of initiatives, including allowing pharmacies to sell their products directly on the street and by phone.
“Pharmacies in the capital will be allowed in all areas of the city, including all neighbourhoods and areas where there is a shortage,” Nasser said.
“Pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to have any profits.
They have to spend the money on their business.”
Follow Al Jazeera’s coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Egypt: