African nations close borders, cancel flights to contain coronavirus spread

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A number of African governments closed borders, cancelled flights and imposed strict entry and quarantine requirements to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which has a foothold in at least 26 countries on the continent as cases keep rising.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and warned the outbreak could have a “potentially lasting” impact on the continent’s most-developed economy, already in recession.

Measures to be taken include barring travel to and from countries such as Italy, Germany, China and the United States.

“Any foreign national who visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa,” he said, adding South Africans visiting targeted countries would be subjected to testing and quarantine when returning home.

South Africa, with 61 recorded cases, has prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people, Ramaphosa said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was suspending travel from any country with reported COVID-19 cases.

“Only Kenyan citizens and foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to in, provided they self-quarantine,” he told the nation in a televised address.

The ban takes effect within 48 hours and remains in place for at least 30 days, he said.

Schools should close immediately and universities by the end of the week, he added. Citizens are encouraged to make cashless transactions to cut the risk of handling contaminated money.

Kenya and Ethiopia have recorded three and four cases respectively, authorities in each nation said, two days after reporting their first cases.

In West Africa, Ghana will ban entry from Tuesday to anyone who has been to a country with more than 200 coronavirus cases in the past 14 days, unless they are an official resident or Ghanaian national. Ghana has recorded six cases.

President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a televised address universities and schools will be closed from Monday until further notice. Public gatherings will be banned for four weeks, he said, though private burials are allowed for groups of less than 25.

In southern Africa, Namibia ordered schools closed for a month after recording its first two cases on Saturday.

Djibouti, which has no confirmed case of COVID-19, was suspending all international flights. Tanzania, which also has no cases yet, cancelled flights to India and suspended school games.

Other nations have shuttered schools, cancelled religious festivals and sporting events to minimise the risk of transmission. Some 156 500 people worldwide have been infected and almost 6 000 have died.