Nigeria, South Africa, three other African countries that are easing lockdown against WHO advice

ALTHOUGH the World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised against measures to quickly relax lockdown imposed by countries to contain the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), some African countries are already opening up their economies.

As of June 1, at least five African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Djibouti and Zimbabwe announced plans to ease lockdown restrictions by opening up worship centres, markets, business and offices, as well as resuming domestic flight operations.

The world health body warned that if measures are relaxed too quickly, COVID-19 cases could begin increasing rapidly.

“Many countries implemented lockdowns and key public health measures early and these appear to have helped slow down the spread of the disease. However, there are concerns that if these measures are relaxed too quickly, COVID-19 cases could start increasing rapidly,” WHO said in a report.

Thirteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa implemented lockdowns along with other public health and social measures nation-wide, while 10 more instigated partial lockdowns in hotspots.

With over 185,000 confirmed cases on the continent and a fragile health care system, there are fears that many more cases would be recorded when these economies fully open up.

In an analysis, the WHO, warned that COVID-19 could kill up to 190,000 people in Africa, adding that it could infect between 29 million and 44 million people — during the first year, if it is not contained.

Africa has recorded over 4,300 COVID-19 deaths, according to Worldometer, with countries like South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria recording the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths.

The ICIR in this report compiled a list of African countries that are already easing the restrictions earlier imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.


Nigeria to resume domestic flight June 21

Currently, Nigeria has carried out over 69,000 tests and recorded over 10,80o cases of COVID-19 while it has also recorded 314 deaths according to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

President Muhammadu Buhari imposed a 14-day lockdown on March 30 in Lagos, Ogun states and Abuja, the nation’s capital to contain the spread of the virus. He also imposed ban on interstate travels and prohibited gathering of people more than 20 including at places of worship.

At the time, Nigeria had just 111 confirmed cases with one reported death.

Amidst the outbreak of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia announced unexpected price discounts of $6 to $8 per barrel of crude oil to customers in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

The announcement triggered a free fall in oil prices and other consequences that day, with brent crude falling by 30 percent, the largest drop since the Gulf War caused a record oil prices crash at the global market.

This and the lockdown imposed stifled Nigeria’s economy which is crude oil dependent resulting into a fiscal crisis that saw the country cutting and reviewing its national budget.

“The drastic fall in the price of crude oil below the 2020 budget benchmark, which was triggered by the global COVID-19  pandemic has negatively impacted the Federal Government’s revenue projections,” Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance said in a memo.

However, Nigeria is gradually opening up its economy with partial easing of lockdown in Lagos, Ogun states and Abuja. The president has recently approved the re-opening of places of worship. The government also announced that five domestic airlines would begin operations on June 21.

There are reports also that interstate travels would also resume on June 21.

While Nigeria imposed lockdown, recorded cases of COVID-19 and deaths increased- 12,233 cases as of June 7 and 342 deaths.


South Africa on level three of five-level approach to easing lockdown

Cyril Ramaphosa, South African President announced that the country was moving to “level three” of its five-level approach to easing the coronavirus lockdown from June 1.

Under level three, the night-time curfew will be lifted and regular activities resumed during the day with ‘strict health protocols’.

South Africa has  recorded of over 35,000 cases of COVID-19, and over 755 deaths. With these figures, the country has registered more cases than any other African country. But it has joined other countries in easing lockdown restrictions.

Over 725,ooo people have been tested in Africa’s most industrialized economy and as concerns for the spread of the virus are being raised, the impact of a hibernated economy is also threatening.


Djibouti wants citizens to make a living and go to work

In Djibouti, easing the lockdown restrictions was a tough choice. Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, Djiboutian Foreign Minister explained that there was a big chance of a surge in COVID-19 cases,  but the government was left with no other choice as “people need to make their living and go to work.”

With dire need to resurrect the economy, Djibouti, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in East Africa. Currently, the country has recorded over 3,700 cases and over 25 deaths.

With a population of fewer than one million people, the country has carried out 200 percent more tests than Nigeria, The Cable reports.


Ghana’s lockdown occasioned severe difficulties

With over 8,000 recorded cases of COVID-19, Ghana, ahead of other African countries, was the first to begin easing lockdown restrictions. After a 21-day lockdown, Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana said the restrictions caused severe difficulties for his country.

“The decision to restrict movement has occasioned a number of severe difficulties for all of us across the country, especially for the poor and vulnerable,” Akufo-Addo said.

During the period of the lockdown, Ghana conducted more than 68,000 COVID-19 tests.

Zimbabwe faces worst economy in 10 years

Zimbabwe whas recorded over 270 cases of COVID-19 out of its over 14.8 million population and recorded four deaths.

The Southern African nation has carried out over 52,000 tests so far and has lockdown in place.

Its economy is currently facing challenges due to the lockdown restrictions announced since March 30.

Aljazeera reported that the country was already facing its worst economic crisis in nearly 10 years and the coronavirus lockdown measures are threatening the livelihoods of people. That was just two weeks after government imposed lockdown.

    To revive its economy, like some other African countries, Zimbabwe is easing its lockdown restrictions and extending curfew periods to allow for some industries to carry on working activities

    “Zimbabwe will continue on the level two lockdown for an indefinite period. The country needs to ease out of the lockdown in a strategic and gradual manner,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a live broadcast sometime in May.

    In that manner, while informal markets are to remain closed, businesses such as manufacturers, supermarkets and banks would be allowed to run for longer hours in level two of its lockdown plans.

    In the realm of education, the government is still working to build plans on phased re-opening of schools, the president said.

    Seun Durojaiye is a journalist with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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