Four African nations that have imposed the most stringent restrictions on the continent are seeing early signs that rapid measures to contain the coronavirus are working.
According to Bloomberg News, other African nations are now following suit. Nigeria, the most populous nation on the continent, has imposed strong containment measures in the commercial hub of Lagos and in the capital, Abuja. Ethiopia, which ranks second in population, declared a state of emergency without a strict lockdown.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, commended the continent for taking the coronavirus seriously.
“It’s important to put in place mitigation measures from the very beginning,” Moeti told Bloomberg. “And in a number of countries, this is being done.”
South Africa responded to the virus quickly once it was discovered in the region—mobilizing healthcare workers to go out, some going door-to-door, taking down people’s travel histories, temperatures, and other risk factors, even setting up pop-up clinics. According to scientists, it bought the government valuable time to allow hospitals to prepare in the event positive cases skyrocket. A travel ban came into effect 13 days after the first coronavirus case was confirmed on March 5, and a lockdown was imposed on March 27.
Because of the quick action, the region now has less than 3,500 coronavirus cases. Almost 127,000 tests have been conducted out of a population of 59 million.
“The trajectory in South Africa is different from anywhere else,” said Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Group on the outbreak, in a televised presentation. “We want to focus on the small flames so we never get to the raging flames.”
Ghana banned travelers from places with high rates of coronavirus in early March and as cases began to rise in the region, the government locked down its main cities and increased its testing. Ghana has tested more people than any other region other than South Africa. President Nana Akufo-Addo lifted the lockdown on Monday but said lifting the order “does not mean we are out of the pandemic,” adding stringent social distancing policies will remain in place.
Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Ghana’s presidential adviser on health, said the number of coronavirus cases will rise, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“When we start testing a lot of people, you will realize that the figure of positives will likely go up,” he said. “There is no cause for alarm. It means we’re doing our work very well.”
Uganda shut its borders and banned commercial flights starting March 23, less than 48 hours after the East African country identified its first coronavirus case. Two weeks later the government initiated a 14-day lockdown, which has been extended to May 5.
Despite all the good news, medical experts are warning fragile healthcare systems on the continent could create problems.
African Americans dealing with the coronavirus in the U.S. have not had the same good outcomes. Black Americans in the U.S. are being infected and dying at higher rates than other races in the U.S.