Africa

Coronavirus: How African countries are lifting lockdowns

People observing social distancing in Rwanda Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People observing social distancing in Rwanda

Despite the World Health Organization warning Africa still faces a growing threat from the coronavirus pandemic, many countries on the continent have begun easing their lockdown restrictions.

Here's how different African countries have taken very different approaches to containing the spread of the virus.

South Africa: Tough measures slowly lifted

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Image caption Safety precautions at a flower auction in South Africa

The South African government, which introduced one of the continent's toughest lockdowns, has begun easing restrictions, with President Cyril Ramaphosa citing concerns they have been damaging the economy:

  • Some businesses have been allowed to reopen
  • Restaurants can deliver takeaway food
  • People can exercise between 06:00 and 09:00
  • There are plans to open schools, although exactly how is still a matter of debate

However, the overall lockdown remains very much in place:

  • A night-time curfew remains
  • Public gatherings apart from funerals are banned
  • The country's borders remain closed
  • Most people are being told to remain at home
  • A controversial ban on the sale of alcohol has been maintained to discourage social gatherings

And the army has been deployed to enforce these measures.

Nigeria: Unlocking big cities

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Image caption Nigeria has restricted movement between different states

Nigeria, by far Africa's most populous nation, closed its land borders and banned all international flights in late March.

But like South Africa, it began easing restrictions from the start of May.

Shops and markets have been allowed to partially open.

But schools and places of worship have not.

The harshest lockdowns have been in the major cities, such as Lagos and Abuja.

Some of these restrictions have now been lifted, allowing limited commercial activity to resume.

But travel between states is banned.

And the government has said people must wear face coverings.

Police in Lagos have arrested 1,400 people suspected of not wearing face protection or breaking a night-time curfew.

And governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu says stricter measures could return if people continue to flout the guidelines.

Kenya: Restrictions remain

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Image caption An officer checks the ID of a woman in a coronavirus hotspot in Nairobi

Kenya is maintaining its lockdown, in place since the start of April:

  • A night-time curfew has been implemented
  • Public and social gatherings are banned
  • People have been encouraged to stay at home
  • All schools and religious centres are shut
  • It is compulsory for people to wear masks in public spaces

The only easing has been to allow restaurants to resume operations but only under tight measures, including testing catering staff and implementing social-distancing measures.

Kenya has also banned movement in and out of local districts in the capital, Nairobi, and the coastal city of Mombasa, which were reporting a high number of coronavirus cases.

Ghana: Concerns over rise in infections

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Image caption Ghana has begun to ease its lockdown

Ghana has not introduced the toughest measures seen elsewhere in the continent.

And lockdown restrictions have predominately been in urban centres, which have been the worst hit.

Instead, the government's emphasis has been on testing.

But schools remain closed.

And religious activities, conferences and festivals are all prohibited.

Some internal flights have resumed.

But all international border crossings remain closed.

And following a rise in the number of reported infections, President Nana Akufo-Addo has now extended the ban on public gatherings until the end of May.

Elsewhere in Africa

  • Tanzania reported its first case in mid-March. But it suspended international flights on 11 April only, significantly later than other countries in the region. The government has closed education centres. And public gatherings are prohibited. Religious meetings can take place. But worshippers must practise social distancing.
  • Zimbabwe enforced a strict lockdown, although it had only a small number of infections. The government is expected to end the lockdown on Sunday. But the wearing of face masks in public places is compulsory.
  • In Rwanda, religious centres and bars remain closed. But places of work are reopening. Movement in and out of the capital, Kigali, is restricted. And a night-time curfew remains.
  • Botswana has said workers can resume, at a level of 25% attendance, as long as they follow social-distancing rules.

Economic hardship is putting pressure on lockdowns

Many African leaders, while supporting measures to control the virus, have expressed concern about the economic consequences.

Many in the continent live on low incomes and are not financially resilient to such economic shocks.

The World Bank predicts sub-Saharan Africa will experience its first recession in 25 years.

Governments have introduced support packages to help businesses and unemployed people.

And Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called for debt relief to help African countries recover.

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