‘Starve Or Get Sick’: Africa’s Lockdown Dilemma

Men crossing a road wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the new COVID-19 coronavirus in Ouagadougou, on March 16, 2020. OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP.

 

Women and children fell to the ground, bloodied and trampled in a desperate surge for food being handed out in a Nairobi slum, as police fired teargas and men with sticks beat the hungry.

As African countries grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, observers warn that the traumatic scenes which played out last Friday will not be the last if governments fail to help millions of urban poor who live hand-to-mouth.

“I give them (the government) one to two weeks before things get worse. Not in terms of coronavirus, but in terms of hunger,” said Kennedy Odede, who runs Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots movement which works in the Nairobi slum Kibera and other informal settlements in Kenya.

“If it continues like this, we might be playing with fire.”

Kenya has so far cordoned off the capital and parts of its coastline and imposed a night-time curfew and other social distancing measures.

Many of these restrictions are having a wrenching impact, causing loss of jobs among the poor, said Odede.

While President Uhuru Kenyatta has wielded the threat of a full lockdown to get citizens to comply with the rules, officials admit it is an agonising choice, especially as 60 percent of Nairobi’s residents live in slums.

“Locking up people in the slums will be the last option. A lot needs to be done before that,” a high-ranking security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

‘Unenforceable and unsustainable’

The coronavirus arrived late in Africa, but is slowly taking hold with over 15,000 cases and 800 deaths across the continent.

While much of the developed world waited weeks to begin taking action, countries in Africa rapidly shut borders and banned mass gatherings.

Mauritius, Rwanda and Tunisia were the first to impose full lockdowns — with Mauritius going so far as to shut supermarkets and bakeries for 10 days.

South Africa is the biggest economy on the continent to completely confine its citizens, while Nigeria imposed lockdowns on Lagos — the continent’s largest city — and its capital Abuja, which on Monday were extended for another two weeks.

Both have millions of people packed tightly in urban slums.

“The inevitable reaction has been to follow what the rest of the world is doing,” said Jakkie Cilliers at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), who has called for Africans to come up with a “unique solution” to stave off the virus.

“A lockdown is unenforceable and unsustainable across much of Africa. You are trying to do something that is not possible and you are condemning people to a choice between starving and getting sick.

“It’s not possible for 10 people living in a tin shack… to not go outside for three weeks.”

‘Make ends meet’

In sub-Saharan Africa, Liberia and Zimbabwe have also imposed full lockdowns.

However most nations across the continent have stopped short of forcing all of their citizens to stay indoors.

Madagascar and Ghana have completely locked down selected regions and towns, while Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger have imposed states of emergency and night-time curfews.

Like Kenya, Benin has cordoned off key cities — preventing movement in and out — while the capitals of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger are also cut off.

Ethiopia, with a population of over 100 million, has closed borders and schools and discouraged large gatherings, but has yet to restrict citizens’ movement.

“We can’t impose a lockdown like more developed nations, as there are many citizens who don’t have homes,” said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

“Even those who have homes have to make ends meet daily.”

On the other end of the spectrum are Burundi and Tanzania, where life largely continues as normal and whose governments have so far downplayed the dangers of the epidemic.

“Coronavirus should not be a reason to destroy our economy at all,” said Tanzanian President John Magufuli.

‘Ineffective and unproductive’

Experts agree that for the different levels of confinement to work in Africa, significant state support is needed — a challenge in a continent where many countries are already heavily reliant on donor aid.

Kenya has lowered taxes and is delivering free water to slums, Senegal’s government is paying electricity bills and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has urged landlords to let people live rent-free until the crisis is over.

However political commentator Rachel Strohm said such measures mainly benefit people “in the formal sector”.

In Lagos, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa and elsewhere, governments are distributing food, however often only to a “fraction of the vulnerable”, said Strohm.

She argued that many of the measures taken are “ineffective and unproductive” — curfews on top of transport restrictions create greater crowds as citizens rush to get home in time, and thus enhance the risk of infection.

Strohm and Odede back the idea of direct money transfers to citizens — especially to avoid the inequality and chaos of food distribution.

Foreign donors — battling their own virus-induced economic crises — will need to step in, they say.

Cilliers argued you need to try and “get the maximum economic activity going so people can survive, but try to keep opportunities for infection limited.”

Another solution to avoid complete lockdowns and economic collapse is mass testing, with South Africa so far the only country seeking this approach.

But only around 70,000 tests have been conducted so far, a level that is still “way too low”, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has admitted.

The majority of countries are still only able to do limited testing.

Meanwhile, ever-stricter measures across the continent have led to a rise in police violence as authorities struggle to get desperate citizens to comply.

“I think we will continue to see excesses and relatively substantive brutality,” said Cilliers.

AFP

COVID-19: IMF Approves Debt Relief For 25 Poor Countries

 

The International Monetary Fund on Monday announced immediate debt relief for 25 poor countries to help them free up funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“This provides grants to our poorest and most vulnerable members to cover their IMF debt obligations for an initial phase over the next six months and will help them channel more of their scarce financial resources towards vital emergency medical and other relief efforts,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement.

The IMF board approved the debt relief for the countries, nearly all in Africa, but also Afghanistan, Yemen, Nepal and Haiti.

The fund together with the World Bank have called for rich nations to stop collecting debt payments from poor countries from May 1 through June 2021.

READ ALSO: South Africa Ramps Up Coronavirus Screening As Cases Rise

The debt relief will be funded by the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which was first set up to combat the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2015 and has been repurposed to help countries fend off COVID-19.

The fund currently has $500 million, with Japan, Britain, China and the Netherlands among its main contributors.

“I urge other donors to help us replenish the trust’s resources and boost further our ability to provide additional debt service relief for a full two years to our poorest member countries,” Georgieva said.

Last week, the World bank said it would roll out $160 billion in emergency aid over 15 months to help countries stricken by the virus, including $14 billion in debt repayments from 76 poor countries to other governments.

AFP

COVID-19: WHO Slams ‘Racist’ Calls For Africa To Be Vaccine Testing Ground

 

The World Health Organization chief angrily slammed recent comments made by scientists suggesting a vaccine for the new coronavirus should be tested in Africa as “racist” and a hangover from the “colonial mentality”.

“Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference, insisting “we will follow all the rules to test any vaccine or therapeutics all over the world… whether it is in Europe, Africa or wherever.”

AFP

 

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In Africa Rise To 6,470

File photo/ AFP

 

 

The number of coronavirus cases in Africa rose to 6,470 on Thursday, the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has reported.

The figure rose from the 5,940 cases reported on April 1 in 49 African countries where coronavirus cases have been reported.

Two hundred and forty-one deaths and 504 recoveries have also been recorded as of 5pm EAT on April 2, according to the ACDC.

A breakdown of the figures show that North Africa remains the worst hit with 2,740 cases, 162 deaths, and 290 recoveries, followed by South Africa with 1,471 cases, 10 deaths, and 34 recoveries.

In West Africa, 1,207 coronavirus cases, 35 deaths, and 147 recoveries have been reported, while East Africa has 586 cases, 13 deaths, and 14 recoveries.

Central Africa has the least cases of the pandemic on the continent with 466 cases, 21 deaths, and 19 recoveries.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said the numbers were increasing exponentially in the African region.

“It took 16 days from the first confirmed case in the Region to reach 100 cases. It took a further 10 days to reach the first thousand.

“Three days after this, there were 2000 cases, and two days later we were at 3000,” he revealed.

In a bid to contain the spread of the deadly virus, many countries across Africa have restricted movements and gathering of people.

While parts of Nigeria are locked down, nationwide lockdowns are in effect in Kenya, Uganda, and the Republic of Congo, among others.

Dr Moeti and Ms Lola Castro, the WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa, addressed the restrictive measures during a virtual media briefing held on Thursday by the WHO Regional Office for Africa with the support of the World Economic Forum.

“For socially restrictive measures to be effective, they must be accompanied by strong, sustained and targeted public health measures that locate, isolate, test and treat COVID-19 cases,” Dr Moeti pointed out.

“It’s vital that ports continue to operate to receive food and other essential humanitarian cargo; that borders and roads stay open so it can be moved where it is most needed, and that distributions to vulnerable people are conducted safely,” said Ms Castro.

She added, “It’s also crucial that the international community promptly provide the considerable funding needed to maintain and scale up assistance programmes.”

Coronavirus: Obasanjo, George Weah, Other African Leaders Feature In New Song On African Solidarity

 

Top African leaders including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, incumbent Liberian President George Weah, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga have been featured in a new song titled ‘Alone but Altogether.’

The song, which starred Ugandan music star Bobi Wine and South African legend Robin Auld, encourages Africans to unite as the continent struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

It also starred Amuta Stone, Schalk Joubert, Lumanyano Unity Mzi, and Greg Mills.

“Different times are here; searching for the answer; don’t be a victim; be a solution; we have to persevere; all alone altogether.

“In our homes, for each other; I know we’ll find a way; in Africa,” they sang.

Ex-African leaders in the video include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joyce Banda, Pierre Buyoga, Kgalema Motlanthe, and FW de Klerk.

Others include Ernest Bai Koroma, Hailemariam Desalegn, Moeketesi Majoro, Salous Chilima among others.

The song was produced by SABI Strategy Group.

 

 

African Celebrities Join Fight Against Coronavirus With Donations, Songs

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

Footballers and musicians have been on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus in Africa, reaching not just for social media to spread awareness of the dangers of the virus but also for the cheque book.

Among the first to step up was Senegalese winger Sadio Mane — a key player in Liverpool’s push for the English Premier League title this year –- who donated 30 million CFA francs ($50,000) to his country’s National Medical Commission to fight the deadly microbe.

In Ivory Coast, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba gave masks to the cathedral of Abidjan, with the warning: “My sisters, my brothers, I ask you to take the matter very seriously… we tend to be too light about our reactions to the situation.”

Another great African striker, the Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o, also now retired, was quick to urge African communities to adhere strictly to precautionary measures.

“My African brothers and sisters! Corona Virus has taken over our lives. With malice, arrogance and without notice,” Eto’o wrote.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Forcing Parents To Skip Kids’ Vaccinations – UNICEF

“It knows neither race, religion nor political parties. It kills the rich and the poor. Even in countries where research is done well, the consequences are disastrous. Unpredictable.

Eto’o spent most of his playing career in Spain.

“For all these reasons my brothers, sisters, dear parents, I ask you to respect the instructions given by the authorities of our countries and the World Health Organization.”

Affected after Asia and Europe, sub-Saharan Africa has recorded only 1,642 cases and around 20 deaths, according to an AFP count at 1100 GMT Thursday from officially declared cases.

The continent, however, fears a lightning-like spread that would overwhelm its already fragile health structures.

In South Africa, the most affected country on the continent, Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi released a couple of videos online showing himself at home with his children, adhering to the isolation regulations laid down by President Cyril Ramaphosa

“Stay safe, stay strong, let’s fight this together,” he says.

– Musicians give support –

African musicians are also stepping up as the continent faces one of its bleakest hours.

Youssou N’Dour, described by Rolling Stone magazine in 2004 as “the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and Africa, handed over a batch of medical equipment to the health ministry in Dakar in mid-March.

Fellow Senegalese rappers collective “Y en a marre” (‘Had enough’) set aside their usual antipathy towards corruption and current politics to release a song called “Fagaru Ci Corona” which warns of the dangers of the virus and advises on washing hands and wearing masks.

They are among other artists who have temporarily laid down their protests against governments to join forces and rally around messages being put out by the authorities.

In Uganda, singer Bobi Wine, a member of parliament who was arrested in early January for his opposition to President Yoweri Museveni, has asked his fans to “watch the social distancing and quarantine”, in a video on Twitter.
– ‘We want to live!’ –

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, rumba star Fally Ipupa stepped away from romance for once to post a video on Twitter called “Fally in confinement mode, the kisses stop”, an improvised melody on an acoustic guitar.

“Stay at home, respect the instructions given by the authorities and the WHO,” Kinshasa crooner said.

The authorities of DRC have not imposed confinement yet but they have closed borders, public places, and put the capital Kinshasa in lockdown.

His compatriot Koffi Olomide, a soukouss singer, a modern version of Congolese rumba, warned fellow countrymen against the “Kuluna-virus”, deftly weaving in the term “kuluna” which indicates armed gangs of Kinshasa, one of the urban legends and terrors of the capital.

In Ivory Coast, the singer DJ Kerozen also alluded to the virus in a new song: “‘There’s a corona, let’s respect the hygiene instructions, the deal is serious, oh..(. ..) Even Mbengue (slang for France), over there, it’s spoiled… we want to live! ”

The Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, who had become a reference for just about every musician in Africa, died in France this week at the age of 86 as a result of the coronavirus.

The composer of “Soul Makoss” was the first world celebrity to succumb to the virus. Congolese singer Aurlus Mabele, a figure in soukous, also died a week ago in Paris from the virus.

AFP

Economic Fears As Africa Escalates Coronavirus Response

A Port Health Service staff member stands next to a thermal scanner as passengers arrive at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, on January 27, 2019. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

African nations have ordered curfews and lockdowns in response to the growing coronavirus epidemic, raising fears of turmoil for low-income workers and cash-strapped governments across the continent.

Cases have risen across the world’s poorest continent over the past week to a total of 2,137 and 62 deaths, according to an AFP tally, prompting countries to enact strict counter measures.

South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy — which at 554 cases has Africa’s largest outbreak — on Monday announced a nationwide lockdown.

“Without decisive action, the number of people infected will rapidly increase… to hundreds of thousands,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the time.

There are fears that weak health infrastructure in Africa will leave the continent particularly exposed to an outbreak on the scale of virus-stricken Europe.

Other countries are following suit with similar measures. More are expected to be announced in the coming days.

On Monday, Senegal and Ivory Coast both declared states of emergency and ordered night-time curfews.

Ivory Coast on Tuesday said it had recorded 73 coronavirus cases in total and would lock areas down progressively, depending on how the virus spreads.

Senegal has recorded 86 coronavirus cases to date, its health ministry said on Tuesday. Ivory Coast has 25 known coronavirus cases.

Ivory Coast PM in self-isolation

In a sign of coronavirus’ increasing reach, Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly said on Twitter on Tuesday that he was in a self-isolation after coming into contact with a positive case.

As the virus spreads, there are also fears that poor and debt-saddled countries will unable to provide an adequate response.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday asked G20 leaders for $150 billion in emergency funding to deal with coronavirus, saying that it “poses an existential threat” to the economies of African countries.

He added that creditors should partly write off national debt for low-income countries.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France’s parliament on Tuesday that there would be a European financial aid package for poor countries fighting the virus.

“I’m thinking in particular about Africa,” he said.

‘How do we pay the rent?’

Adopting lockdowns and social distancing measures in poor African nations is also generating economic worries at the local level.

Homes are often overcrowded, and workers in the informal economy cannot self-isolate at home without abandoning their livelihoods.

Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa, admitted these difficulties in a briefing with reporters last week.

She said such measures were “quite a challenge” and that the WHO is working on other approaches such as making hand sanitisers more widely available.

Locals are increasingly concerned as containment measures bite.

“They’re closing down the stalls, the restaurants, but how are we supposed to feed our families?” asked Nemy Fery, who runs a street-food stall in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s main city.

He added that he would try selling takeaway meals — and look for another job.

There are similar concerns in Muslim-majority Senegal, where the authorities were already struggling last week to enforce a ban on praying in mosques.

Sabah Amar, who works in a souvenir shop, said that Senegalese people “will die of hunger” before they succumb to coronavirus.

Several people interviewed by AFP in Dakar nonetheless said they supported the government’s coronavirus measures.

“I prefer that everything closes. We’re not selling anything anyway,” said Amar. “Otherwise we’re all going to die.”

In the north of the continent, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli on Tuesday announced a two-week night-time curfew.

And in the east, cases have doubled in Rwanda, to 36, while South Sudan has closed its air and land borders, except for food and fuel supplies.

– Rising cases –

The archipelago nation of Cape Verde on Tuesday announced its first coronavirus fatality after a 62-year-old British tourist died.

Cameroon also recorded its first death — a man who had contracted the disease in Italy and tested positive on March 14, according to Health Minister Manachi Manaouda.

Four people have died in Burkina Faso, which is West Africa’s worst-hit country with 115 confirmed cases.

Countries that have announced strict containment measures are turning to the army to enforce them.

Military patrols in Senegal will ensure people respecting the dusk-to-dawn curfew, for example.

South Africa’s president has also said the army will enforce his country’s lockdown.

Nombulelo Tyokolo, 41, a domestic worker in Cape Town, who shares a one-bedroom shack with her son, told AFP she was worried about how the lockdown will work.

“I am scared, worried and panicking about 21 days indoors,” she said.

“We have to fetch water outside and go outside to the toilets. God have mercy.”

Airlines Need Up To $200 bn In Emergency Aid – IATA

 

 

Up to $200 billion is needed to rescue the world’s airlines during the coronavirus crisis, the global aviation association said Thursday, appealing especially to African and Middle Eastern countries to provide emergency assistance.

“Support measures are urgently needed,” the International Air Transport Association said in a statement, adding that “on a global basis, IATA estimates that emergency aid of up to $200 billion is required”.

Airlines worldwide face an unprecedented existential threat as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 9,000 people around the world, shuts down global travel.

“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority of governments,” IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac said in the statement.

“But they must be aware that the public health emergency has now become a catastrophe for economies and for aviation,” he said, pointing out that “the scale of the current industry crisis is much worse and far more widespread than 9/11, SARS or the 2008 global financial crisis.”

“Airlines are fighting for survival,” he said, warning that “millions of jobs are at stake.”

IATA expressed particular concern for the situation in Africa and the Middle East, where many routes have been suspended, and where demand has fallen by as much of 60 percent on the remaining routes.

READ ALSO: Tokyo Olympics May Be Postponed Due To Covid-19 – Athletics Chief

It pointed out that the air transport industry’s economic contribution in Africa alone is estimated at $55.8 billion, supporting 6.2 million jobs and contributing 2.6 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In the Middle East, the contribution stands at $130 billion, some 4.4 percent of GDP, supporting 2.4 million jobs, it said.

“Airlines need urgent government action if they are to emerge from this in a fit state to help the world recover, once COVID-19 is beaten,” Juniac said.

Carriers across Africa and the Middle East had begun implementing extensive cost-cutting measures to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, IATA said, but warned that airlines in the regions on average held enough cash reserves for approximately two months.

“Due to flight bans as well as international and regional travel restrictions, airlines’ revenues are plummeting (and) outstripping the scope of even the most drastic cost containment measures,” it said.

IATA called on governments to provide support in various ways, including through direct financial aid to passenger and cargo carriers, loans and loan guarantees and tax relief.

AFP

First Virus Death In Sub-Saharan Africa As WHO Warns ‘Prepare For Worst’

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following a WHO Emergency committee to discuss whether the Coronavirus, the SARS-like virus, outbreak that began in China constitutes an international health emergency, on January 30, 2020 in Geneva. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following a WHO Emergency committee to discuss whether the Coronavirus, the SARS-like virus, outbreak that began in China constitutes an international health emergency, on January 30, 2020 in Geneva. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

 

Sub-Saharan Africa has recorded its first COVID-19 death, a high-ranking politician in Burkina Faso, as the head of the World Health Organisation urged the continent to “prepare for the worst”.

“Africa should wake up,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday, pointing out that “in other countries, we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point”.

Africa has lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, but in the past few days has seen a significant rise in cases.

Experts have repeatedly warned about the perils for the continent, given its weak health infrastructure, poverty, conflicts, poor sanitation, and urban crowding.

Medical authorities in the poor Sahel state of Burkina Faso announced Wednesday that the number of infections there had risen by seven to 27 — and that one of them, a 62-year-old diabetic woman, had died overnight.

The country’s main opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), said in a statement that the victim was its lawmaker Rose-Marie Compaore, the first vice president of the parliament.

South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, reported a more than one-third jump in cases, with 31 new infections bringing its tally to 116.

Nearby Zambia announced its first two confirmed cases — a couple that returned to the capital Lusaka from a 10-day holiday in France.

As of Wednesday, a tally of reported cases compiled by AFP stood at more than 600 for all of Africa.

Of these, 16 cases have been fatal: six in Egypt, six in Algeria, two in Morocco, one in Sudan and one in Burkina Faso.

Those figures are relatively small compared to the rest of the world — the global death toll has passed 8,800 with almost 210,000 total infections.

WHO chief Tedros said sub-Saharan Africa had recorded 233 infections, but warned the official numbers likely did not reflect the full picture.

“Probably we have undetected cases or unreported cases,” he said.

– ‘We live day-to-day’ –
Watching from afar as the disaster unfolds in Asia and Europe, some African countries have wasted little time in ordering drastic measures.

Air traffic has been particularly hard hit, as many of Africa’s initial cases were detected in people who had returned from affected countries in Europe and the Middle East.

Some countries, such as Somalia, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and, most recently, the island of Madagascar have moved to stop all flights into their countries.

On Wednesday, Cape Verde — a tropical archipelago off Africa’s west coast that is heavily dependent on tourism — and the continent’s most populous nation, Nigeria, joined others in banning flights from the countries most affected by coronavirus.

Burkina Faso has ordered the closure of all schools and barred all public and private gatherings until the end of April.

There was concern on the unusually quiet streets of the capital Ouagadougou on Wednesday.

“It’s worrying what is happening with this virus, but we cannot barricade ourselves like developed countries. We lack everything here — we live day-to-day,” said bicycle seller Boureima Baguian.

“We cannot, for example, close the big market. If that happens, it’s not the coronavirus that will kill us but misery and hunger.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo announced similar measures as it reported its first local case, banning flights from affected countries and closing schools and universities for four weeks.

South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s worst-hit country, has banned cruise ships from its ports. More than 1,700 people are stranded on a liner off Cape Town over fears that some have the virus.

It is just the latest blow to tourism across the continent, with coronavirus fears also cancelling sporting, cultural and religious events.

Christian and Muslim leaders in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Senegal said they would suspend services to protect their faithful.

– ‘Disease hot spot’ –
A 2016 analysis by the Rand Corporation, a US think-tank, found that of the 25 countries in the world that were most vulnerable to infectious outbreaks, 22 were in Africa — the others were Afghanistan, Yemen, and Haiti.

The report identified a “disease hotspot belt” extending across the southern rim of the Sahara through the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, where many countries are struggling with conflicts.

“Were a communicable disease to emerge within this chain of countries, it could easily spread across borders in all directions, abetted by high overall vulnerability and a string of weak national health systems along the way,” the report warned.

Tedros recommended that mass gatherings be avoided, urging Africa to “cut it from the bud, expecting that the worst can happen”.

“The best advice for Africa is to prepare for the worst and prepare today,” he said.

-AFP

COVID-19: Africa Should Prepare For The Worst – WHO

 

The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that while Africa so far had seen few cases of COVID-19, the continent should “prepare for the worst”.

“Africa should wake up,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual news conference.

Tedros said that to date, 233 cases of the new coronavirus had been registered in sub-Saharan Africa and four people had died, making it the least-affected region in a global pandemic that has infected more than 200,000 people and killed more than 8,000.

But he warned that the official numbers likely did not reflect the full picture.

“Probably we have undetected cases or unreported cases,” he said.

And even if there truly were no more than 233 cases of the disease in Africa, he warned that that number could scale up quickly.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: More than 850 Million Students Shut Out of School – UNESCO

“In other countries, we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point, so the best advice for Africa is to prepare for the worst and prepare today,” he said.

“WHO’s recommendation is actually that mass gatherings should be avoided,” he said, urging Africa to “cut it from the bud, expecting that the worst can happen.”

“My continent should wake up,” said the former Ethiopian government minister.

AFP

Burkina Faso Reports First Coronavirus Death In Sub-Saharan Africa

Men crossing a road wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the new COVID-19 coronavirus in Ouagadougou, on March 16, 2020. – The Burkina Faso government announced the closure of schools and universities until March 31, 2020, as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. The government also ordered the suspension of public and private demonstrations and rallies until the end of April 2020. OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP.

 

The Sahel state of Burkina Faso on Wednesday announced its first death from coronavirus, which is also the first known fatality in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We recorded the death overnight of a female patient aged 62, who suffered from diabetes and was in intensive care,” Burkina’s national coordinator for responding to the virus, Professor Martial Ouedraogo, told the press.

With the addition of seven new cases, “the number of patients (in Burkina Faso) stands at 27, comprising 15 women and 12 men”, Ouedraogo said.

The tally includes a case in the town of Bobo Dioulasso, the first outside the capital Ouagadougou.

Africa has lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, although the reasons for this are unclear.

As of Wednesday, a tally of reported cases, compiled by AFP, stood at 576 for all of Africa.

Of these, 15 cases have been fatal: six in Egypt, five in Algeria, two in Morocco, one in Sudan and one in Burkina Faso.

READ ALSO: Zimbabwe VP In China For Medical Check

Experts have sounded loud warnings about the vulnerability of sub-Saharan countries to the highly contagious respiratory virus.

Many countries are at high risk, given weak health systems, poverty, urban slums, porous borders and poor sanitation.

A 2016 analysis by the Rand Corporation, a US thinktank, found that of the 25 countries in the world that were most vulnerable to infectious outbreaks, 22 were in Africa — the others were Afghanistan, Yemen and Haiti.

The report put the finger on a “disease hot spot belt” extending on a line of countries, running across the southern rim of the Sahara through the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, many of which are struggling with conflicts.

“Were a communicable disease to emerge within this chain of countries, it could easily spread across borders in all directions, abetted by high overall vulnerability and a string of weak national health systems along the way,” the report warned.

On Saturday, Burkina Faso ordered the closure of all schools and a ban on all public and private gatherings until the end of April.

AFP

S.Africa Stock Market Tumbles As Coronavirus Restrictions Intensify

 

Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during his inauguration as South African President, at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, on May 25, 2019.

 

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) plunged 12 percent on Monday as South Africa imposed tough restrictions after declaring a national state of disaster in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Africa’s most developed nation would close its borders from Wednesday to all foreigners from countries highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools are closing down and gatherings of more than 100 people have been prohibited.

The JSE fell below 38,784 points on Monday, its lowest level since August 2013, following a downward trend in markets around the world sparked by concerns about the economic fallout of Covid-19.

The JSE Africa All-Share Index tumbled as much as 12 percent, while the rand currency lost 2.2 percent against the US dollar to trade at 16.64 rand.

Nedbank economist Nicky Weimar said South Africa’s economy and markets were being hit on multiple fronts by “weak demand (both locally and abroad), contained inflation, the volatile rand and an uncertain global environment due to the coronavirus.”

Shares in the industrial metals, food producers and mining industries also fell.

To date 62 people in South Africa have tested positive for the virus — the second-highest number of cases in Africa after Egypt, which has reported at least 110 cases.

South Africa’s economy has already been battered by internal factors such as power outages and weak business confidence.

It slumped into recession in the last quarter of 2019.

Economists forecast that the central bank will cut interest rates by at least 50 basis points.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Monday said despite having funds available through the National Disaster fund, the country may need to set aside further funding to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The impact of the virus on an already struggling economy has piled pressure on Ramaphosa who took over from graft-tainted Jacob Zuma two years ago promising a new start.

“We are going through a period which we have never gone through since (end of apartheid in 1994),” he told reporters on Monday. “It is going to be a testing period on all of us”.

“It is going to have a negative impact on our economy, our economy which is already in technical recession”.

AFP