Forty-three of Africa’s 54 countries now have confirmed coronavirus cases, with the total at 2,046, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.
Though the tally is still low compared to global figures, it has doused the debate on Africans having some kind of immunity against Covid19 due to its sunny temperature.
Governments across Africa are now rushing to reinforce measures to contain the spread of the disease, knowing that their fragile health systems will be swiftly overwhelmed if the disease spreads beyond a small number of cases.
Social distancing and complete lockdown measures are difficult to maintain in the continent. It has bared deep cracks of inequality.
While low-income earners will be struggling to navigate contamination on cramped public transports on their way to meager-paying jobs and businesses, the more affluent classes will be heading to super shops to stockpile as much food and groceries as they can.
Slums and informal settlements which are also part of the physical infrastructure of many African cities are mostly overcrowded and lack services even before the threat of a global health crisis emerged.
The first line of drastic measures taken in Africa was to prevent importation of Covid-19 – the imposition of travel restrictions on especially Europe, Asia, and North America as many confirmed cases involve people arriving from there.
Algeria cut off all air and sea contact with Europe and Botswana barred travelers from 18 high-risk countries.
Africa’s busiest airport, in Johannesburg, South Africa blocked all foreigners from disembarking while two major airlines — Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways — announced sweeping cancellations of international flights.
Nigeria on Saturday announced the closure of airports to all incoming international flights for one month and Uganda is closing its borders to all but cargo.
Ethiopia said all arriving passengers will face mandatory quarantine from Monday while the Republic of Congo and Ghana are closing their borders.
While deterrence in welcoming foreign visitors proved helpful, health experts fear the move came a notch late as local transmission – confirmed cases with no foreign travel history – had gradually begun.
“It is crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission”, said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Such a scenario will present a major challenge to countries with weak health systems.”
More than 14 countries in the African region are now experiencing local transmission.
The virus can easily spread through overcrowded cities, remote villages and among vulnerable populations such as refugees, the malnourished or those suffering from HIV and other chronic conditions.
Several lockdown measures have begun in many parts of Africa as local transmission continue.
Rwanda became the first nation in Africa to be placed on lockdown for at least 14 days followed by Tunisia.
Additionally, travel between cities and districts of the country is not permitted, except for medical reasons or essential services. All bars are closed.
South Africa will on Thursday shut all but essential health and economic activities in a bid to stop the spread.
No one is allowed to come out of houses except police, nurses, and the army.
South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, in a national address announced that the national lockdown will last for 21 days as the country’s coronavirus figures surged to over 500.
Lagos, Africa and Nigeria’s largest city with over 21 million population, on Tuesday announced the shutting of markets selling all but essential life-saving products.