Africa: COVID-19 Roundup - Extra Troops, Kenyan Abuses and Ethiopian Airlines Fights for Survival


South African authorities plan to deploy tens of thousands of additional soldiers to help enforce a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, as some officials have come under fire for flouting measures designed to contain the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Kenyan security forces have been criticised by human rights groups for abuses carried out enforcing a Covid-19 curfew and Africa's largest airline is fighting for its survival as coronavirus shutdowns strangle air traffic across the continent.

More than 73,000 additional troops would be deployed in South Africa to help enforce a Covid-19 lockdown, according to a letter from President Cyril Ramaphosa to parliament. The extra soldiers from the South African National Defence Force would be deployed until 26 June.

The deployment concerns both regular, reserve and auxiliary staff and is expected to cost approximately 2.2 million euros, according to Ramaphosa's letter.

South African security forces have had a difficult time enforcing the coronavirus lockdown especially in overcrowded townships. The police have also been tackling illegal alcohol sales, sometimes involving their own officers.

A number of government officials, including 89 police officers, have been arrested for breaking Covid-19 regulations, many of them for selling contraband alcohol, according to the police minister.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Wednesday that 131 people including councillors, health officials, correctional services and police have been arrested.

South Africa's five-week lockdown included a ban on alcohol sales, however several closed liquor outlets have been looted since the start of the coronavirus measures.

South Africa's communications minister was also fined by the country's prosecuting authority for flouting the coronavirus lockdown and lunching at a friend's house.

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was fined 49 euros after posting a photo on social media depicting herself at a friend's home having lunch.

Ndabeni-Abrahams was placed on special leave earlier this month and is expected to appear before court in May. The prosecutor alleges her lunch was unlawful under lockdown measures.

South Africa has registered 3,465 cases of coronavirus and 58 deaths, making it the second worst-hit country on the African continent after Egypt.

Kenyan police rights abuses

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said Kenyan police had killed at least six people while enforcing a coronavirus curfew.

The US-based rights watchdog said the police had also beaten and extorted others during the 7pm-5am lockdown that has been in place since 27 March.

"The police, without apparent justification, shot and beat people at markets or returning home from work, even before the daily start of the curfew," said HRW.

In Mombasa, police teargassed crowds queuing up to take a ferry home from work on 27 March hours before the curfew started, beating, kicking and slapping them, according to HRW.

Kenya's police spokesperson Charles Owino told the AFP news agency that the police had systems in place to deal with "errant police officers" and some officers had already been suspended and sacked.

Ethiopian Airlines on a shoestring

Africa's largest airline, Ethiopian Airlines, is currently in a struggle for survival as the coronavirus pandemic stifles air travel across the continent, according to an interview with CEO Tewolde Gebremariam by AFP.

Ethiopian Airlines is set to lose revenue of 505 million euros from January to April and is attempting to defer lease payments on aircraft, according to Tewolde.

Tewolde said the state-owned airline can sustain operations with only 15 per cent of its revenue, but only for a short period of time.

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