CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt will halt all public transport and coach trips on Monday to keep crowds down during a major public holiday and limit the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Thursday.

Egyptians mark the start of spring with the Sham el-Nessim celebrations on Monday, a day after Coptic Christians celebrate Easter. Both Muslims and Christians traditionally go out in large numbers.

Beaches, parks, public gardens, malls and shops will be closed for the day, except food stores and pharmacies, Madbouly said in a televised briefing after a cabinet meeting.

Egypt applies similar measures on weekends since imposing a night-time curfew on March 24, which was extended to April 23.

Egypt has also closed schools and universities, shut mosques and churches, stopped most public services and grounded flights to contain the spread of the virus.

Madbouly said on Thursday he was concerned about the increasing numbers of people on the streets during the last few days and urged them to stay at home as much as possible.

Authorities face a challenge tackling the virus in a country of 100 million people where many live in rural areas along the Nile river and public health services can be severely stretched.

Egypt has reported 2,673 coronavirus cases as of Thursday including 196 deaths, the health ministry said, adding that 596 patients had recovered and had been released from hospital.

(Reporting by Moaemen Said Atallah and Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Andrew Heavens and David Holmes)