Containing COVID-19: Lockdown to begin in South Africa

Cityscape of Johannesburg in South Africa February 18, 2010. REUTERS/
A screen divides a cashier, left, and customer right, at a pay point in a Spar supermarket, in Johannesburg, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the day after it was announced that South Africa will go into a nationwide lock-down for 21 days from Thursday to fight the spread of the new coronavirus. /Photo by AP Photo/Denis Farrell.

Friday will mark the beginning of a 21-day period country-wide lockdown in South Africa as coronavirus cases hit 709 on early Thursday.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize pointed out “intense local spread” in Free State province among attendees of a church gathering where five cases were reported. All five had recently traveled abroad. Now almost 30 cases have been recorded.

Cases across Africa are now well above 2,400, with Libya announcing its first case on Wednesday.

Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Burundi, Malawi, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho and Sao Tome and Principe have not reported any COVID-19 cases, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Congo became the latest country to close its borders while reporting its third death. The sprawling nation has one of Africa’s weakest health systems and has been battling another global health emergency, a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east.

While that outbreak now appears to be within days of being declared over, Congo also faces a large measles outbreak.

As more countries across Africa impose restrictions on gatherings and travel, many informal workers are suffering.

Ethiopia’s government in a proposal to the Group of 20 major industrialized nations has said Africa needs a $150 billion emergency financing package because “COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries.”

For most people, the pandemic causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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