Egypt unrest: Banks reopen after week of closure

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Media captionAs people in Alexandria queued to withdraw money, Amira Ahmed from the Daily News said 'there wasn't a run on the banks'

Some banks in Egypt have reopened for a few hours after a week of closure in the wake of continued street protests.

It came as the government warned of the damage which continued unrest could do to the nation's economy.

"We want people to go back to work and to get paid, and life to get back to normal," army commander Hassan al-Roweny said.

Last week Credit Agricole Bank said the protests were costing the country at least $310m (£192m) a day.

Currency steady

Economists at the bank also revised down their economic growth estimate for Egypt this year from 5.3% to 3.7%.

Following a week-long closure, the Egyptian pound opened weaker against the US dollar, although not to the extent some traders had expected.

The currency was trading at about 5.90 to the dollar, slightly below the 5.8550 before banks were closed.

"I am confident that the market will be orderly," central bank governor Farouk el-Okdah had said late on Saturday before markets reopened.

As people clamoured to enter the banks, staff tried to establish some sort of system for dealing with their customers.

For the past week, with banks closed, there have been long queues at ATM machines as Egyptians sought to withdraw their money.

Image caption Egyptians have been forced to rely on cash machines until now to get at their money

Tourism hit

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been holding talks with ministers to try to get the economy moving.

The Egyptian stock market, which remains closed, is down by about 20% since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, many shops have been closed during 12 days of protest, while some prices have been pushed up.

Trade Minister Samiha Fawzi Ibrahim has said exports were down 6% in January and that the authorities were providing extra food to try to stabilise prices and curb shortages.

Many factories in the major cities remain shut and state media said the stock market would not open on Monday, as had earlier been planned.

Last week Vice-President Omar Suleiman said one million foreign tourists had fled the country over the previous nine days, costing $1bn in lost revenues for a country where tourism accounts for some 6% of GDP.