The South African president said on Monday that he was deploying soldiers on the streets to help the police enforce the national lockdown, while Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire both announced that they were imposing a state of emergency to control the spread of coronavirus.
Coronavirus cases have been slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading rapidly, having infected more than 1,700 people in 45 countries and testing already strained and underfunded health systems.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a three-week national lockdown on Monday to contain the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that has affected more than 400 people and ordered the military to enforce the ban.
He said the government “had decided to enforce a national lockout for 21 days with effect at midnight on Thursday March 26” to “avoid a human catastrophe”.
The number of confirmed cases in South Africa has increased six-fold in eight days, from 61 to 402.
“The number will continue to increase,” said Ramaphosa, adding that “the next few days are crucial.”
South Africa has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa, and public health experts fear that it will overwhelm the health system if infection rates continue to rise.
Senegal and Ivory Coast declare state of emergency
West African states, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, each declared a state of emergency on Monday against the new coronavirus pandemic.
Senegal will impose a curfew from dusk to dawn, while Côte d’Ivoire has said it will introduce progressive containment measures. “The speed of progression of the disease forces us to raise the level of response,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall in a televised speech to the nation.
Senegal registered 12 new cases on Monday to bring its total to 79, while Côte d’Ivoire recorded 25 cases.
Last week, Senegal suspended its international commercial flights and Côte d’Ivoire closed its nightclubs and cinemas. But in televised speeches, the presidents of the two countries declared that these measures had proved insufficient.
Lockdown in the second largest city in the DRC
The second largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) began a 48-hour closure on Monday after the arrival of two suspected coronaviruses on a flight from Kinshasha.
Security forces have been deployed in the south-eastern DRC city of Lubumbashi, where the streets were deserted and shops closed
The DRC has registered 30 cases of coronavirus since March 10, two of which were fatal.
On Monday, four lawmakers in Kinshasa urged President Félix Tshisekedi to place the sprawling capital “in quarantine and isolate it from the rest of the country”.
“We are extremely concerned about the risk of the virus spreading due to travel from Kinshasa and the rest of the country,” they said.
Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ethiopia close their borders
Elsewhere on the continent, Zimbabwe has closed all of its borders to human traffic except for returning residents after reporting its first death from the coronavirus.
The government has also banned public gatherings indefinitely.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, closed its land borders after also registering its first death. Ethiopia has also closed its land borders.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Kenya increased from 1 to 16, while the count in Senegal increased from 12 to 79.
African finance ministers also called for a $ 100 billion stimulus package, including a suspension of debt service payments.
Ethiopia closed its land borders to almost all human traffic on Monday as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The second most populous country in Africa has so far recorded only 11 infections and no deaths, but authorities have struggled in recent days to implement preventive measures, including banning large gatherings, which which fears an increase in the balance sheet.
Other WestAfricalike countries, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, the hardest hit country in the region with 99 cases and four deaths, have also announced curfews in recent days.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)