CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt reported 495 cases of the new coronavirus on Friday, its highest daily increase to date, as the number of deaths from COVID-19 confirmed by the health ministry rose above 500.

The total number of coronavirus cases confirmed by the ministry stands at 8,476, while the 21 new deaths announced on Friday bring total reported deaths to 503.

Egypt relaxed some restrictions designed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan late last month, slightly shortening a night-time curfew. [nL5N2CB6NO)

Officials have signalled that the country could gradually start returning to normal in June, but have also said authorities are ready to reimpose curbs if infections increase.

On Thursday Awad Tag el-Din, a health advisor to Egypt’s president, told reporters that 100,000 PCR tests for the new coronavirus had been carried out in Egypt, and that a total of one million tests had been conducted including rapid tests and CT scans.

(Reporting by Aidan Lewis and Ulf Laessing; editing by Diane Craft)