Africa 

Ethiopia’s Tigray region declares coronavirus state of emergency

March 26: Tigray region imposes state of emergency

Ethiopia’s northern Tigray regional state on Thursday, March 26, announced a region-wide state of emergency as a means of combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tigray Mass Media Agency said the decision was reached a day after the regional state council met and agreed on the decision which has implications on movement and on social activities.

Under the 15-day emergency rule: all travels within the state is banned. There is also a ban on social activities such as weddings and other festivities which could lead of large gatherings. Markets are also to be closed.

More details are expected to be released later. The federal government has closed all land borders as per the decision of an inter-ministerial COVID-19 committee led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

As at March 25, Ethiopia had confirmed 12 cases with all cases in the capital Addis Ababa. The figure is out of about 500 tests overall. It is woefully minimal as compared to South Africa’s over 15,000 tests that have turnd out 704 confirmed cases.

March 22: Ethiopia shuts land borders, impose more restrictions

Ethiopia will deploy the army to halt the movement of people along all borders, with the exception of incoming essential goods to the country, this is one of eight new measures being implemented by the federal government in the wake of the coronavirus spread.

Prime minister Abiy Ahmed on March 23 met with heads of the security sector for deliberations aimed at containment of the pandemic. The group he met today are the security sub-committee of the National Ministerial Committee.

Aside shutting land borders, a series of enforcement measures were announced relating to regulations on large gatherings and social distancing. Public transports are to avoid overcrowding whiles businesses will be checked in line with normal pricing of essentials.

Government offices have been tasked to employ adequate safety measures for employees whiles seeking home options for other employees. The security forces – army and police – are to undertake internal preparations for enforcement of the relevant rules.

March 20: Ethiopian suspends flights to 30 countries

State-affiliated FBC reports that Ethiopian airlines (Ethiopian) has suspended flights to 30 countries due to coronavirus (COVID-19), effective from Friday March 20.

At the beginning of the outbreak, Ethiopian maintained a decision to stick to its China route at a time most African airlines had suspended operations to and from the country. Ethiopia currently has nine confirmed cases and tests are being run on hundreds of suspected cases.

According to journalist Samson Berhane, CEO of the company, Africa’s most profitable and expansive, confirmed that they had made losses of up to $190 million. “We ll probably face the biggest crisis in the history of aviation in Ethiopia,” Tewolde Gebremariam said.

The FBC report adds that Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed had announced that all passengers arriving in Ethiopia from COVID -19 affected countries will be quarantined for 14 days, with all cost to be covered by themselves. Uganda has a similar rule in place.

Night clubs are to remain closed whiles government is set to release a category of prisonser. Specifically inmates who have children, and whose probationary period is drawing to an end plus those in detention for minor crimes, the PM added.

On the subject of religious institutions, Abiy said they had been tasked to take all necessary measures towards the implementation of a robust mechanism to prevent the spread of the virus.

March 19: Ethiopians must join world not stigmatize others – Minister

Ethiopia’s Health Minister says the coronavirus pandemic was not related to any country or nationality, she said it as a “test against humanity” which required Ethiopians to join the world to defeat.

“#COVID19 is not related to any country or nationality. It is a test against all humanity. We should fight it together and defeat it. I call upon all my fellow Ethiopians to join hands with the world to fight this global challenge,” her post on Twitter read.

It is believed to be connected to a United States Embassy statement that alerted to rising anti-foreigner sentiments in parts of the country.

The embassy cautioned that foreigners were being targeted with the accusation that they were infected with Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus.

In a security alert said as at March 18, the embassy: “continues to receive reports regarding a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment.”

Typical derogatory comments such as “China” and “ferengi” (a reference to foreigners) have been “reportedly coupled with the label ‘corona’, indicating a disparaging view on the link between the outbreak of Covid-19 and foreigners in Ethiopia,” it added.

“Reports indicate that foreigners have been attacked with stones, denied transportation services… being spat on, chased on foot, and been accused of being infected with Covid-19,” the embassy added.

Ethiopia recorded its first case last week of a Japanese national. The cases have risen to six, the sixth being of a British diplomat. Health authorities said they were testing over 900 people for the virus as part of contact tracing efforts connected to confirmed cases.

Across Africa, there is a view that most confirmed cases have been imported largely from Europe. Most index cases were of either European nationals or of Africans with recent travel history to Europe. There are sixteen deaths so far, as at March 19.

U.S. president Donald Trump has been under fire on Twitter for referring to the coronavirus as “The Chinese Virus.” Most people have called the reference racist especially with the WHO cautioning against tagging a global malady with a certain category of people.

March 16: Ethiopia’s COVID-19 rules: Crowd ban, free transport, regulate essentials etc.

Ethiopia confirmed the fifth coronavirus case on Monday (March 16), a day after it had recorded an increase of three in addition to the index case that was recorded last week.

The office of the Prime Minister issued a statement surrounding key measures taken by government to safeguard public safety and orderliness.

The COVID-19 National Ministerial Committee at its second meeting led by PM Abiy agreed on a number of measures aimed at addressing containment and potential spread of the virus.

It announced a 10-point measure that was set to last “for the next two weeks, subject to further assessments,” the statement read. the measures included wide-ranging public bans, social interventions and regulating of economic activities propped up by the pandemic.

  • Large gatherings including sporting events had been banned whiles small gatherings required clearance from the Health Ministry.
  • All educational institutions with the exception of higher learning institutions were to be closed.
  • Religious institutions and places of worship are tasked to limit gatherings
  • A national hygiene and preventive measures movement launched from federal level to local levels
  • Government announced allocation of budget for distribution of masks, soap, alcohol solutions and other items in critical locations.
  • Government buses are to be availed free of charge to help control crowding in public transport. Special buses designated to take public servants to work. Private transporters are also asked to follow suit.
  • Trade ministry to monitor and act against businesses engaging in price-gouging
  • Special attention to be paid to the elderly.
  • Volunteers tasked to compliment government education, prevention efforts.

“The Prime Minister calls upon all to maintain calm and equip themselves with accurate information from the Ministry of Health.

“Citizens are asked to maintain strong hand hygiene and avoid (ing) unnecessary physical contact in line with Ministry of Health guidelines,” the statement concluded.

PM Abiy over the weekend disclosed that he had reached a partnership with Chinese e-commerce founder Jack Ma for an Africa wide supply of key coronavirus materials including masks, testing kits and literature.

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