With strained public health systems, Covid-19 could potentially overwhelm countries in sub-Saharan Africa, warned The World Health Organization. With South Africa taking decisive steps to close its borders and revoke visas from individuals travelling from high-risk regions, here is a selection of measures other African countries are taking to prepare for the virus and limit its spread.
With more cases than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is barring entry to foreign travellers coming from or transiting through high-risk countries including Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom and China, according to an advisory issue by the foreign ministry on Tuesday.
Travellers who arrived from these countries since mid-February are required to report for testing. Those arriving from medium-risk countries – Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will undergo high intensity screening.
South Africans are strongly advised to cancel or postpone all non-essential foreign travel. The government has also prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people and ordered schools to close early for the Easter break. Schools will be closing from today, 18 March.
Africa’s most densely populated nation has stepped up surveillance and is preparing for the possibility of an influx of patients.
Authorities are checking the temperature of anyone who arrives at Nigeria’s airports, ports and land borders. Those coming from high-risk countries such as China, Iran, Italy and Spain are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, said Tarik Mohammed, a technical advisor at the Niger Centre for Disease Control. If they develop symptoms, a laboratory team will visit them and collect a sample for testing.
Lagos, the biggest city with some 20 million people, could handle 2,000 cases, said Bamidele Mutiu, who heads a regional bio-safety team. However, in order to do this, they would need to use two camps previously housing people displaced by violence, he said.
The East African country has suspended travel from any nation with reported COVID-19 cases. Only Kenyan citizens, foreigners with residence permits and United Nations workers will be allowed to come in, provided they proceed on self-quarantine, the government said this week.
Schools and universities are closing, and public minibuses are providing hand sanitizer.
Ethiopian Airlines said on its website that medics stationed at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, a key regional transit hub, carry out continuous health screenings 24/7.
The government has closed schools nationwide and is offering to transport people on government buses to ease congestion on public transport.
The East African country is flooding its capital, Kigali, with portable sinks for hand-washing at bus stops, restaurants, banks and shops. Schools, universities, churches and courts are closed nationwide. Some flights are suspended.
From Wednesday, Cameroon, in central Africa, will close land, air and sea borders indefinitely, the government said in statement on Tuesday. All international flights will be grounded, with the exception of cargo planes, while schools and restaurants will shut, and gatherings of more than 50 people are banned.
The West African country is no stranger to a pandemic, and are applying lessons learned fighting a devastating Ebola outbreak in 2014-15.
“We were one of the first countries to start enhanced screening at the airport on Jan. 25,” said Mosoka P. Fallah, acting director general of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia.
More than 200 people have been trained as field epidemiologists and check for diseases in all 90 districts, said Tolbert Nyenswah, senior research associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States and former incident manager for Liberia’s Ebola response. “If there is a case of a suspected disease, a sample is sent to a lab and tested.”
There are hand-washing stations at public places including stores, shops, schools, hospitals, restaurant and government offices.
The West African country has been taking all passengers’ temperatures since Jan. 28 and asks for contact details, so officials can reach them if someone else on the plane tests positive, a spokesman for Dakar airport said.
Ghana has implemented some of the most stringent measures in West Africa with a mandatory 14 days of quarantine for all people arriving from abroad.Travelers from countries with over 200 cases of coronavirus are barred from entering the country unless they are Ghanaian citizens or residents.
After confirming its first case on March 13, the West African country closed the international airport, suspended teaching in schools and universities, and banned weekly markets.
One of the world’s poorest countries, the island nation has suspended all flights for 30 days, a strong blow to its tourism industry.