Lockdown vs. No Lockdown: What’s the Effective Solution to Combat COVID 19 in Africa?
As we all know about this global pandemic called COVID 19 (coronavirus), it is affecting both, the rich and the poor, black and whites, Asians, Europeans, Australian and Africans, it is just hitting around the world. As per 4th May 2020, 3,534,544 people have tested positive for covid 19 from across the world. Out of this number, 248,169 deaths have occurred and the good news is, more than 929,363 people have recovered worldwide from telegraph websites (Gutiérrez, 2020). A sneak peak of the most affected countries in Europe include Italy and Spain while the USA is leading the records in North America. On the other news, in Africa, more than 44,313 cases have been confirmed from 52 African countries. A special exception to Comoros Island and Lesotho (we should probably learn about their successful prevention techniques). I’m happy to learn that despite the rise in the covid 19 positive cases in Africa, people are recovering at a high rate, as per statistics, more than 5492 people have recovered from this pandemic (Africanews, 2020).
Okay, let’s break this again. Do you know how many African countries have gone in lockdown? Well, according to the telegraph news (Blomfield et al., 2020), ‘more than two-thirds of African states have imposed restrictions on movement, while 17 have enforced total or partial lockdowns’. Do you know that more than 80% of Africans work in the informal sectors (Adegoke, 2020) ? This means that one needs to look for some hard earned money throughout the day in order to feed the family in the evening and eventually do the same routine for the rest of their lives. This is what we call from the pocket to the mouth, the earned money from selling things across the streets, selling fruits and vegetables across busy, sunny and dusty cities in Africa, hustling women and men to use what they earn to feed their families on a daily basis.
After knowing that more than 80% of Africans survive from the informal sectors, this itself should pose us a question, is lockdown the effective way of dealing with covid 19 spread in Africa? At the same time, if everything goes on as usual, how will we restrict the virus from spreading to the mass? You know the reason why most Europeans and Americans have responded positively to the lockdown situation, it is largely because their jobs could be easily transformed to online platforms (“Why lockdowns may not be the answer in Africa”, 2020). Now let’s talk about the Africa informal sector, how many people can afford to move their services digitally? Is it even possible for a less illiterate person to consider the online options?
LOCKDOWN VS NO LOCKDOWN
In this segment, we are going to explore some of the African countries that have undergone lockdown, how is the situation? Are the cases improving from this attempt? Well, let’s talk about the total lockdown. So far, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Congo Brazzaville, Mauritius, Djibouti, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau and Lesotho have announced national lockdowns. This means that movement of people from one place to another is limited and also a mandatory 14 days quarantine for all arrivals from international flights. I guess this list is not enough, so let me pick a few countries and explain how exactly the lockdown situation is handled.
In Kenya. According to BBC (BBC News 2020), Kenya imposed curfew and restricted social gatherings and movement between populated areas.
Rwanda declares lockdown and unnecessary movements have not been allowed. Only shops selling essential food products have remained open until 6pm and the police have been imposed across the streets to ensure that the citizens follow the appropriate rules. Also all public gatherings have been stopped until further notice including worshiping areas, all public transports have been suspended as well. The government is supplying food to the less privileged families mostly those who belong in the informal sector. Rwanda has been in lockdown for more than one month and the progress is so far impressive with 147 total cases and 80 recoveries and 0 deaths. The update is that as on 4th May 2020, lockdown restrictions have been eased and businesses have resumed as usual.
South Africa has declared lockdown and prohibited all unnecessary movements while Nigeria has imposed lockdown in the key urban areas including Lagos.
Overall analysis from the countries that have opted total national lockdown
Despite all the efforts taken by different African governments to contain and prevent the rapid spread of covid 19, some media have reported brutal actions imposed by the police and people in power to force citizens away from the crowded areas as well as humiliation once the curfew hours tick in.
According to The Telegraph UK (Blomfield et al., 2020), police shot dead a 13 year old boy playing on his balcony just 20 minutes after the curfew patrol had begun in Kenya. The same policemen in Kenya have caused the death of a motorcycle taxi driver who was rushing a woman to labor in the hospital. These brutal actions are all taken by the governments to make sure that people stay in their homes.
Telegraph further says that “even in South Africa, which has won praise for the efficiency of its coronavirus response, police and soldiers have been filmed caning and humiliating civilians. One man caught on a beer run was allegedly beaten to death with a hammer by police in Cape Town” (Blomfield et al., 2020).
This tragedy does not end here as in Nigeria, some groups of youth attacked soldiers in southern Nigeria after the police shot dead a man who left his house to buy medicine for his pregnant fiance, too sad right? With these brutal examples provided above, do you think that lockdown is effective in Africa? Did we really have to copy and paste exactly what the westerners did? What if we had our own way to contain and avoid the further spread of covid 19?
Now, here’s to the most shocking country you should read about, Tanzania! The president of Tanzania has literally refused to let the country undergo lockdown despite the exponential increase in confirmed cases in Tanzania (both mainland and the islands). As per 4th May, 491 confirmed cases of covid 19 and guess what? It’s business as usual. Instead, President Magufuli has insisted Tanzanians to keep on working as usual. He further announced three days of national prayer starting from 17th to 19th April 2020.
What’s more confusing is that the positive efforts laid by the ministry of health are being held back by the poor decision making that the government has done. For example, on 17th March 2020, the prime minister of Tanzania made an announcement that all schools across the country must be closed, from toddler’s academies to Universities. Secondly, football leagues, music events and political meetings were banned. However, worship spaces are still open. So people distance with each other throughout the week but meet together for worship activities based on their days of worship. This is potentially a very high risk to the entire population.
Despite banning all gatherings, members of parliament are now attending the regular parliamentary sessions in Dodoma, the capital city of Tanzania. And as per 20th April 2020, the speaker at the parliament announced that one of the members of the parliament was tested positive for covid 19. Can you imagine how many members of parliament have been exposed to their fellow infected members? Imagine each Member of Parliament comes from different regions in Tanzania, since none of them will be subjected to quarantine, they are more likely to spread the virus across the country.
So what point am I trying to raise here?
My point here is, as much as we criticize that the lockdown is not effective for Africans, countries that have not undergone lockdowns like Tanzania are facing a rapid increase in confirmed positive cases. I believe it’s a high time for the governments to make tough decisions that will save the country from falling heads over heels by simply not adapting to the new systems. Covid 19 has also paused a serious analysis on the African healthcare systems. Countries like Tanzania have only 40 ventilators (some sources report) available for the population of 58 million citizens. Covid 19 has forced Africans to adapt to digital tools, as some Universities have now opted to use google classroom for virtual class sessions. According to the World Bank, Sub Saharan Africa will experience recession in 2020 after spending 25 years with no recession, this will teach us on having a new perspective on investments.
I would like to ask you a single tough decision question. ‘As a future leader, would you rather declare a total lockdown, let the economy be affected but at the end of the day come out with the entire nation to rebuild the economy or would you rather let the economy shoot up while the health of your citizens is on hold’?
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Blomfield, B., Thornycroft, P., Cameron-Chileshe, B., Newey, B., Nuki, B., & Newey, B. et al. (2020). From denial to brutal lockdown: How Africa’s response to ‘rich man’s’ disease has evolved. The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 May 2020, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/denial-brutal-lockdown-africas-response-rich-mans-disease-has/.
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