Southern Africa: SADC Member States Take Action On Covid-19

Most SADC Member States have implemented stringent measures to restrict the movement of people, encourage social distancing and promote sound hygiene standards in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Unprecedented lockdowns have been effected in a number of SADC Member States, while some have not yet done so. Most air travel has stopped in the region and commercial flights are not operating. In some countries, there are restrictions on internal travel by road, except for essential cargo.

In Angola, President João Lourenço declared a state of emergency and a-14-day nationwide lockdown effective 27 March, following consultations with the Council of the Republic and the National Assembly.

In Botswana a 28-day lockdown beginning 2 April has been announced, combined with the declaration of a state of emergency.

Lesotho has imposed a pre-emptive lockdown for three weeks from 29 March in preparation to contain the virus, although the country has no confirmed cases of coronavirus to date.

Mauritius has set up a National Communication Committee on COVID-19 through which daily updates are given, and a curfew has been ordered in terms of the regulations for the Prevention and Mitigation of Infectious Disease (Coronavirus) 2020 of the Public Health Act.

Seychelles has implemented similar measures which include a full lockdown for 30 days from 23 March.

In South Africa, a nationwide lockdown was implemented effective 26 March, to be enforced by the country's security forces, and borders have been closed. South Africa has the highest number of reported deaths and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region.

"This is unprecedented, not only in our democracy but also in the history of our country, that we will have a lockdown for 21 days to go out and wage war against an invisible enemy, coronavirus," President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address to the military on the eve of the lockdown.

He has since announced the deployment of 10,000 field workers to conduct door-to-door screening and contact tracing.

In Zimbabwe, a state of disaster was declared and a countrywide lockdown imposed from 30 March with the exception of services deemed essential, such as healthcare, utilities and food sales. All gatherings of more than two people are barred, including religious activities, but excluding funerals. Religious leaders across the spectrum have supported this decision and are raising funds to support the efforts to contain the virus.

The Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment Regulations have been gazetted to provide for the compulsory testing, quarantining, isolation, treatment, detention and evacuation of persons exposed to the virus or confirmed to be infected by it.

Most Member States have declared a state of emergency or disaster, but some have opted for a partial lockdown.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has declared a state of emergency with effect from 24 March, coupled with travel restrictions, suspension of air travel, the closure of borders and a lockdown for specific cities such as Kinshasa.

"Coronavirus does not need a passport, visa or voter's card to circulate in our house," President Félix Tshisekedi observed in his address to the nation.

In the Kingdom of Eswatini, a partial lockdown was declared for 21 days from 27 March and the King's birthday celebrations have been cancelled, with the budget "re-directed to the fight against the coronavirus," the Prime Minister announced.

In Madagascar, lockdowns were imposed on the country's two main cities, the capital Antananarivo and Toamasina located in the east of the country. President Andry Rajoelina warned that "those who do not respect these measures will suffer severe penalties."

As part of pre-emptive measures, Malawi has declared a state of national disaster although no cases of COVID-19 have been reported as yet.

In Mozambique, a state of emergency has been declared for the first time in the history of the country, beginning 1 April and resulting in the prohibition of public gatherings, closure of schools and mandatory quarantine for international travellers.

All arrivals in the country are subject to a 14-day self-quarantine. However, bars and nightclubs remained open. Consultations on other measures are being undertaken at various levels, including the newly established Council of State, the National Defence and Security Council, and the National Human Rights Commission.

A state of emergency lasts for 30 days and can be renewed twice, for a total of 90 days. Under a state of emergency, measures may be taken to curtail individual rights and freedoms.

There has been an intense media debate over a possible lockdown in the country. The main argument is that with most people being very poor, living from day-to-day in self-built houses without proper access to water and with no food reserves, households cannot be isolated. The counter argument is that the alternative is worse -- of households having to cope with sick and dying people because health services are overwhelmed.

In Namibia, a 21-day a partial lockdown was announced for the Khomas and Erongo regions, effective 27 March, and a month-long travel ban for all international arrivals and departures. The new Cabinet of President Hage Geingob who took office in late March, had this emergency item on the agenda for their first Cabinet Ministers meeting.

In the United Republic of Tanzania, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa announced a month-long suspension of public gatherings, sporting activities, political rallies and the closure of all schools and universities after the first Covid-19 case was confirmed on 16 March in the northern tourism hub of Arusha. Religious activities are exempted.

Although neighbouring countries of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have sealed their borders and implemented strict measures, Tanzania has not officially closed its borders, declaring a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals coming from countries "most affected" by the coronavirus, currently mainly Europe and the United States.

President John Pombe Magafuli has urged Tanzanians to gather in churches to pray, while an opposition leader warned that "God will not protect people who cannot protect themselves."

Preventative measures have been announced by the Union of the Comoros which has no confirmed cases to date, and the priorities include action to strengthen local capacity, as tests for COVID-19 are conducted abroad.

Zambia has approved the COVID-19 Contingency Plan and Budget as part of steps to deal with the virus. Other measures included re-routing of all international air traffic through the international airport in Lusaka to enable the proper screening of arrivals and departures, although most airlines have stopped flying. Mandatory quarantines are required for visitors exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

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