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Updated Mar 24, 2020

Forty-three of Africa’s fifty-four countries have confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 24. With the number of infected patients on the continent already more than 1,900, most countries have been implementing lockdown measures to reduce the spread of the contagion. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has blocked all international flights. Tunisia and Rwanda instituted shelter-in-place rules that bar unnecessary travel outside the home except for buying medicines and groceries. In Kenya, medical personnel disinfected crowded markets in Nairobi. And South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will go into a twenty-one-day lockdown—from midnight on Thursday, March 26 to April 16—in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.  


Why It Matters

As the cases mount, there is serious concern that poorer countries will be overwhelmed by the virus due to a lack of proper medical and screening equipment needed to manage and treat patients. Burkina Faso, for example, has been hit hard recently by terrorist attacks, forcing the closure of some 130 health centers. The country has 99 confirmed infections, and several government ministers have come down with COVID-19. 

Many rural and poor communities in Africa struggle to maintain steady access to clean water, a vital component in both preventing infection and managing symptoms when sick. As the virus continues to spread, countries that lack equipment might be forced to ration what they have, which in many cases would mean excluding remote communities to favor the more populous cities.

There are also fears that in Sahel countries, as military resources get diverted to monitor border crossings and support ailing healthcare systems, terrorist groups and violent militias might be emboldened to launch more daring attacks.

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