The presidents of Ivory Coast and Senegal, two of West Africa’s largest economies, declared states of emergency, imposing curfews and travel restrictions in response to accelerating coronavirus outbreaks.
Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly, infecting over 1 700 people across 45 countries and challenging strained and under-funded health systems.
Senegal registered 12 new cases on Monday to take its total to 79, while Ivory Coast has recorded 25 cases.
Last week, Senegal suspended international commercial flights and Ivory Coast shuttered nightclubs and cinemas. In television addresses, both countries’ presidents said those measures proved inadequate.
“If we continue to act as if it’s business as usual, the virus will spread more massively and aggressively,” said Senegal President Macky Sall.
Sall ordered an 8 pm to 6 am curfew and said administrative officials would be empowered to ban public gatherings, close public spaces and limit transport between regions.
In Ivory Coast, President Alassane Ouattara announced a 9 pm to 5 am curfew, closing all restaurants and a ban on “unauthorised” travel between coastal commercial capital Abidjan and the interior.
He also authorised “the progressive lockdown of populations by geographic area, depending on the progression of the pandemic”.
“In the fight we are waging against the propagation of COVID-19, our principal enemy will be indiscipline and non-respect of preventive orders,” Ouattara said, referring to the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
The president of South Africa, with most confirmed cases on the continent, ordered a three-week nationwide lockdown to begin on Thursday.
The sweeping move is seen as impractical by many in poorer, less industrialised countries like Senegal and Ivory Coast, where people depend on daily earnings to survive and are not covered by social safety nets.
Other countries in West Africa like Mauritania and Burkina Faso, the hardest-hit country in the region with 99 cases and four deaths, also announced curfews.