Coronavirus: WHO concerned by Africa’s lockdown measures as Covid-19 cases skyrocket

• Kenya has reported 110 cases in under three weeks, since the first case on March 12, the majority of them in Nairobi. Other affected regions include Kilifi, Kwale and Kajiado counties.

• In DR Congo, where Covid-19 cases were at first confined to Kinshasa, now a handful of cases have been reported in the easternmost regions of the country


Shoppers queue to stock up on groceries at a Makro Store ahead of a nationwide 21 day lockdown in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Durban, South Africa on March 24, 2020./ REUTERS – ROGAN WARD

AFRICA – With more than 6,000 Covid-19 cases in Africa, the coronavirus is threatening fragile health systems on the continent.

Infections are increasingly spreading not only between African countries but also within different localities in the hardest-hit countries.

Kenya has reported 110 cases in under three weeks, since the first case on March 12, the majority of them in Nairobi. Other affected regions include Kilifi, Kwale and Kajiado counties.

In DR Congo, where Covid-19 cases were at first confined to Kinshasa, now a handful of cases have been reported in the easternmost regions of the country that were until recently in the grip of an Ebola outbreak.

In Rwanda, numbers shot from 17 to 81 in just two days.

In South Africa, all provinces have now reported cases. The outbreaks in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Senegal are also widespread. Case numbers are increasing exponentially in the African region, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said.

“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 2, 000 cases, and two days later we were at 3,000,” Moeti said.

To contain the coronavirus, many African countries are implementing measures restricting gatherings and the movement of people through curfews and lockdowns.

While Kenya has only issued a night-to-dawn curfew, nationwide lockdowns are in effect in Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and South Africa, as well as Botswana, which announced on Wednesday.

However, there are issues that governments have to deal with to effectively get results from such measures due to high poverty levels in the continent.As many people live in crowded conditions or work in the informal sector and need to earn money daily to survive, it is important that countries make provisions to ensure that people can still access essential services.

WHO is working closely with national governments and United Nations partners including the World Food Programme to plan for these needs, Dr Moeti said.
Dr Moeti and WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa Lola Castro addressed the restrictive measures during a virtual media briefing held on April 2 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 said.

”It is 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,” Castro said.“It is also crucial that the international community promptly provides the considerable funding needed to maintain and scale up assistance programmes.”On its part, WHO is pursuing innovative solutions to the regions’ pressing public health problems through training.

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