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African Nations begin easing coronavirus lockdowns

Some African countrires have begun loosening coronavirus restrictions, with other countries watching closely to see how they might safely emerge from their lockdowns. 

There are now more than over 33,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the continent, with a number of African countries imposing a range of prevention and containment measures against the spread of the pandemic.

According to the latest data by the John Hopkins University and Africa Center for Disease Control on COVID-19 in Africa, the breakdown remains fluid as countries confirm cases as and when. The whole of Africa has rising cases with only two countries holding out as of April 28. 

Decisions on how and when to reopen will be vital to how people and businesses can cope with the pandemic, balancing the need for economies to restart with the risks of new outbreaks and further shutdowns.

As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the continent, Moussa Faki Mahamat, African Union Commission Chairperson noted that widespread confinement is a very complicated solution to implement in Africa, because there are many poor people living in major cities and therefore it would be very hard to apply a total lockdown in these situations.

South Africa’s government, one of the first in subsaharan Africa to impose a lockdown in March will next week begin easing a nationwide lockdown that’s devastated the economy, while retaining a raft of restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The country will move from the maximum disease-alert level 5 to a national level 4 on May 1, allowing the phased reopening of some businesses and industries subject to strict precautions, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday in a televised address to the nation.

As part of South Africa’s amended Level 4 lockdown restrictions, the government plans to introduce a ‘curfew’ which will limit the times when South Africans will be allowed outside of their homes.

In West Africa, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana has lifted a three-week lockdown in two cities, citing improved coronavirus testing and the “severe” impact of the restrictions on the nation.

Nonessential businesses in Accra and Kumasi, the country’s two largest cities, can re-open Monday and residents can return to work but must continue to practice social distancing, he said.

In a televised address on Sunday, April 19, Akufo-Addo said the decision did not mean the government was letting its guard down, saying existing bans on public gatherings and school closure were still in place.

After a month-long lockdown, Nigeria will begin easing coronavirus restrictions in some major cities next week.

Nigeria’s president Buhari on Monday evening (April 27) announced “a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures” in Abuja, Ogun and Lagos states from May 4. 

The new response approach, Buhari claimed, is due to the “heavy economic cost” of the lockdown and the need to “balance the need to protect health while also preserving livelihoods.” 

The new measures include a ban on interstate travel, mandating the use of face masks and a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am. Existing restrictions on large social and religious gatherings will also remain in place.

Gabon’s Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekalé has eased lockdown restrictions in the capital, Libreville, and three neighbouring municipalities.

The government has instead imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and allowed shops to reopen. Schools and places of worship will remain closed.

Movement out of the capital has also been restricted to avoid the possible spread of coronavirus to other provinces.

WHO officials say the crisis appears to be just beginning in Africa. A sudden rise of more than 40% in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases during the last 10 days across the continent – to 30,300 – and a similar increase in the number of deaths – to 1,374 – has worried specialists.

The WHO has warned of 10 million cases in Africa within three to six months, though experts say that the death toll could be lower if authorities can move swiftly to contain outbreaks of the disease.

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