Africa’s largest city Lagos yesterday appeared deserted after Nigeria locked down its economic hub and shuttered its capital, in the continent’s latest effort to brake the juggernaut of coronavirus.
Businesses were closed, markets abandoned and streets empty as the usually chaotic megacity of 20mn, along with the capital Abuja, shuddered to a halt on the first full day of a two-week shutdown.
Police in protective equipment manned checkpoints, trucks carrying non-essential items were turned back and youths were spotted playing football on a usually traffic-clogged highway.
“It is like putting people in prison,” minibus taxi driver Mutiu Adisa told AFP.
“I don’t know how people can survive for two weeks without working to make money.”
Nigeria embarked late on Monday on one of Africa’s most ambitious efforts at social distancing after recording 135 confirmed cases and two deaths.
Enforcing the stay-at-home order in the overcrowded slums of Lagos will be a mammoth challenge as millions of poor depend on their daily earnings to survive.
Officials insist the draconian measures are needed urgently to ward off an explosion in infections that could swamp the weak health system in Africa’s most populous nation.
“To reduce the number of people with coronavirus, we know they need to stop movement,” 60-year-old engineer Ogun Nubi Victor told AFP.
“But there is no money for the citizens, people are just sitting at home, with nothing to eat.”
In an attempt to ease the pain, Lagos state authorities have pledged to supply basic food rations to some 200,000 of the city’s neediest households.
Across all of Africa, countries have recorded more than 5,400 cases and 172 deaths, according to a tally compiled by AFP.
The numbers have lagged behind those of other continents, and there are still a handful of countries that had yet to detect a single case.
But experts have repeatedly warned of Africa’s vulnerability, describing its many conflicts, poor sanitation, packed urban slums and under-equipped hospitals as sources of potential catastrophe.
Tanzania and Mauritania yesterday became the latest nations to register fatalities, and Sierra Leone confirmed its first infection.
In Central African Republic — a country ravaged by years of fighting — there are only three ventilators for a population of 4.7mn, the Norwegian Refugee Council said.
Dozens of countries across the continent have imposed restrictions from night-time curfews to total shutdowns to try to halt the disease.
Uganda yesterday woke up to lockdown after President Yoweri Museveni ordered his East African nation to shut up shop immediately.
The Republic of Congo was gearing up to follow suit later in the day and Botswana ordered a state of emergency from midnight tomorrow.
Guinean President Alpha Conde ordered a night-time curfew in a country already mired in political crisis over suspicions its leader is trying to cling to power.
Oil-rich Angola saw strict restrictions imposed since Monday.
“Nobody was ready for this,” lamented local resident Osvaldo Malungo as he shopped for food at a market in the capital Luanda.
Growing reports of brutality from security forces in some nations have highlighted the challenges of enforcing curbs on movement.
The police watchdog in South Africa, on lockdown since last week, said on Monday it was investigating an officer for allegedly killing a man who defied the regulations.
The country’s defence minister also condemned “any type of abuse” by security forces after videos on social media showed civilians forced to squat or roll on the ground.
The regional powerhouse, which has the highest numbers of confirmed infections on the continent, will start mass door-to-door screening and testing for infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.
The “unprecedented” exercise will be launched in the next few days, with at least 10,000 field workers deployed across the country of 57mn people, he said in an address to the nation.
“We are now entering a new phase in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
African nations start to reopen cautiously
Congo declares new Ebola epidemic, 1,000 km from eastern outbreak
Cook Off: the film that defied all odds to reach Netflix
10 dead in roadside IED blast outside Mogadishu
Somalia blast kills at least 10 on minibus
Rwandan medical workers deploy robots to minimise coronavirus risk
Attack in northern Burkina Faso kills at least 15
Nigeria’s nightlife dwindles amid coronavirus restrictions
SA unions tell teachers to defy govt, stay away from school