Algeria lifts lockdown on coronavirus epicentre

A man disinfects a bus station in Algeria
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Blida province has the highest number of coronavirus cases

Algeria has ended a full lockdown on the northern Blida province, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, and replaced it with a curfew during the holy month of Ramadhan.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad said the curfew will begin at 14:00 local time (13:00GMT) and end at 07:00 the next day.

It is unclear if the full lockdown on Blida province, which was to end in a week, will be re-introduced after Ramadhan.

Other nine provinces, including the capital Algiers, that had a curfew starting from 15:00 local time will now have a relaxed curfew starting from 17:00.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said there had been improvement since the lockdown and curfew were imposed and soon "normal life" would resume, according to Xinhua news agency.


Covid-19: Algeria frees thousands of prisoners

BBC Monitoring

The world through its media

Algeria has become the latest country in Africa to release some of its prisoners in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has pardoned close to 5,000 detainees who have 18 months or less to serve of their sentences.

Ethiopia has also freed thousands from prisons.

Curfews, currency and khat: Latest coronavirus news

A man chews khat in Addis Ababa's 'Little Mogadishu' neighbourhood in 2019.
A temporary ban on the sale of a potent stimulant has reportedly saved Somalis millions of dollars (file photo)

African nations are taking tough action to restrict the spread of coronavirus and are increasingly taking steps to protect their economies too.

In the latest developments:

  • South Africa announced its first two coronavirus deaths as the country started a three-week lockdown with the army and police officers patrolling the streets. A few people have been arrested: a cyclist and others found with alcohol - the sale of which is banned. Videos circulating on social media show officers at times using force to get people to toe the line
  • Zimbabwe is allowing people to use US dollars again, reversing last year's ban on foreign currencies - a move aimed at supporting the already struggling economy against the effects of coronavirus. The country is to begin a lockdown on Monday
  • A temporary ban in Somalia on the stimulant leaf khat, which coincided with the suspension of international flights to and from capital because of coronavirus, is estimated to have saved people millions of dollars over the last week. Campaigners want the restrictions to be made permanent
  • The president of Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has recalled disease control experts from overseas and announced new restrictions, including on shipping, and extra funding for Lagos state, which has registered 44 of Nigeria's 65 cases of coronavirus
  • A couple in Tanzania have been arrested for spreading false information - after being heard on a bus saying that coronavirus was a hoax. Dar es Salaam's police chief said the husband and wife were ridiculing the government
  • Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo - one of the continent's biggest cities - will start a three-week lockdown on Saturday. Residents will have to stay at home for four days and then be allowed to stock up on food on the following two days
  • Eritrea, with six confirmed cases, is shutting all schools and all public transport has been banned - as have all commercial flights. Gatherings of more than 10 have also been prohibited
  • Algeria is bringing nine more of provinces under a daily curfew already in place in the capital, Algiers, and the neighbouring province of Blida. It means residents will not be allowed out of their homes between 19:00 and 07:00 local time
  • And the BBC has launched a Africa coronavirus live tracker, which shows that there are so far 3,450 confirmed cases on the continent.

Night curfews extend across Algeria

Nine more provinces in Algeria will be placed under daily curfew from 18:00 GMT (19:00 local time) to 06:00 GMT, starting on Saturday, as the North African country seeks to contain the spread of coronavirus.

A total of 367 people in Algeria are reported as having contracted the virus, 25 of whom have since died.

A large number of confirmed cases are in Blida province, where multiple members of the same family were among the first known cases in Algeria earlier this month.

Both Blida and the capital of Algiers are already under curfew, with a full lockdown in force in Blida according to Reuters.

Algeria's ex-PMs lose court appeal

Ahmed Rouaba

BBC News

Tahmed Ouyahia (L) and Abdelmalek Sellal (R) were both allies of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Tahmed Ouyahia (L) and Abdelmalek Sellal (R) were both allies of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

The Algerian Supreme Court has upheld jailed sentences for two former prime ministers who served under ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Ahmed Ouyahia and Adbelmalek Sellal were given 15 and 12 years prison terms.

They were convicted of corruption, stealing of public funds, and granting privileges to the owner of a car assembling plant.

They were investigated after Mr Bouteflika was forced to resign in April 2019 following massive street protests.

Read: A quick guide to Algeria

Algeria approves chloroquine to treat Covid-19 'in certain cases'

Ahmed Rouaba

BBC News

Health workers at a hospital in Algeria
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Medics in Algeria are currently dealing with 230 cases of coronavirus

Algeria’s health ministry has said hospitals in the North African nation can use chloroquine to treat patients infected with coronavirus.

However, the statement specifies that the drug should be used to treat “certain cases” of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, in accordance with “specific medical protocol”.

Chloroquine is one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial drugs – though it is no longer recommended in much of Africa because of the resistance built up to it by the malaria parasites.

In treating malaria patients, the drug has been used to reduce fever and inflammation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that so far there is no definitive evidence of its effectiveness when treating Covid-19, but it is part of the continuing trials.

"Chloroquine seems to block the coronavirus in lab studies. There's some anecdotal evidence from doctors saying it has appeared to help," says James Gallagher, BBC health correspondent.

Last week, there was confusion over whether the US had approved the drug to treat coronavirus. But the body licensing medicines in the US said it was still being considered.

Seventeen people have died of Covid-19 in Algeria, which currently has 230 cases of coronavirus, 54% of them in the province of Blida, south of the capital Algiers.

Last week, the government closed all borders, banned flights and ferries as well as suspending public transport between cities.

It has also sent 50% of the work force on paid leave for two weeks, ordering them to stay in their homes.

Private businesses have been promised state financial assistance to compensate for their loss in wages paid to their employees and workers.

In neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia, which are also in lockdown, the army has been deployed to enforce social distancing and the closure of shops and businesses deemed to be unessential by the authorities.

Algeria's streets empty of protests over coronavirus

Ahmed Rouaba

BBC News

A general view shows empty streets after an anti-government protest were suspended, following the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Algiers, Algeria March 20, 2020.
This was central Algiers on Friday...

The streets of Algeria's capital, Algiers, were oddly deserted on Friday as pro-democracy demonstrators stayed away as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Algerians have been demonstrating every Tuesday and Friday since February 2019 to demand changes to the government, a situation which led to the forced resignation of long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika two months later.

But earlier this week some influential opposition leaders appealed to demonstrators to suspend their mass gathering as the country battles the coronavirus infections which have been reported in 17 of the country's 48 provinces.

Algerians carry banners and flags during a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of protests that ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria February 22, 2020.
This has been the scene every Friday for the past year

On Thursday President Abdelmadjid Tebboune ordered all land borders to be closed and all flights, except those carrying freight, to be suspended as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

He also banned mass gatherings, including demonstrations and congregational prayers.

However, mosques will continue to perform the call for prayers.

“Public health is above everything, even if in the process we will have to temporarily restrict some civil liberties,” Mr Tebboune said.

Six people have died of Covid-19 in the North African nation, which has confirmed 62 cases of the virus.