Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent.
With more than 3,200 cases and 83 deaths now reported across Africa, in 46 different countries, experts are warning the continent’s leaders that they are rapidly running out of time to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Governments are under pressure to take radical steps to contain the pandemic. South Africa, the continent’s second-largest economy, entered a strict, 21-day lockdown Thursday. Governments across the continent appear poised to follow suit.
While these measures are seen as critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, they are introducing new risks for some of the most vulnerable Africans. In poor communities and refugee settlements, lockdowns threaten to trap people in tight quarters unsuited for social distancing and where a lack of running water makes it impossible to follow vigorous hand-washing recommendations. Yet help is likely to be slow to arrive in these settings, fueling “well-founded fears that the official response will exacerbate patterns of discrimination and, in the worst cases, lead to serious human rights abuses,” as David Steven and Alex Evans warned in their recent in-depth report for WPR.