How are African countries dealing with coronavirus?
NAIROBI—The COVID-19 pandemic arrived relatively late to Africa, but the early responses from some African countries have been chaotic and violent, possibly helping to spread the disease.
About 23,000 people fled South Africa on the eve of its lockdown, rushing the border into neighboring Mozambique on March 27.
In Kenya, among a number of other countries on the continent, security forces have beaten, whipped, humiliated, and even killed civilians, including a 13-year-old boy, in an attempt to enforce curfews, bans on movement, and lockdowns.
Similar pictures have emerged from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, with armed, uniformed men lining up people and shoving them onto the beds of police pickup trucks or encircling groups of people sitting on the ground.
The national director for the Zimbabwe Peace Project said:
When it comes to the arrests of those ‘violating’ regulations not deliberately, we see them packed like sardines in police trucks. This is sure [a] breeding ground for the spreading of the virus.
Lack of protective clothing:
The police are also being heavy-handed with citizens—we have seen some citizens being assaulted. We are also worried that the police are at risk of catching the virus because we do not see them in protective clothing. We wish the police would issue warnings and avoid having too many people in small spaces.
Many critics say the lockdowns and nighttime curfews recently put in place across Africa the past weeks have prompted unrest and disarray that may only help spread the disease, including mass cross-border migration, state-sponsored violence, and economic strife.
Across Africa, borders and airspaces have mostly closed, and even though they are treated as an exception, humanitarian agencies are concerned they might not be able to move relief goods in time, and food cuts could also cause people to move.
The executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University said:
African governments appear to have adopted the lockdown policy without either consultation with the affected people (I can see no cases in which they have done this) or analysis of its likely impacts on the trajectory of infections and the livelihoods of people.
The continent has been late to catch the virus, with the second case in Africa recorded in Algeria only at the end of February.
Currently the only model available to governments in this part of the world is restricting movement, but this has already backfired spectacularly.
As of March 31, Africa had nearly 5,300 coronavirus cases, a small number for a big continent, but implementing testing has been slow, making it is possible that the virus has spread further.
After weeks of precious few samples taken, significant shipments of tests and supplies donated by the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma are being distributed across Africa now. It is expected that with increased testing, numbers will rise (though the quality of the tests is already being called into question).