Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ethiopia are now at 74, including 3 fatalities. Africa’s second-most populous nation declared a state of emergency on April 8 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reported cases of COVID-19 in Africa are well over 10,000 by the last count, a number that prompted the World Health Organization chief, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to release a statement warning of potential “economic and social devastation” in Africa as a result of the pandemic.
With over 110 million people, the East African country is doing everything it can to prevent a situation where there are widespread infections that can overwhelm their public health response.
The five-month state of emergency announced was in accordance with Article 93 of the constitution. The disclosure was made public by a statement from Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He urged the public to cooperate with the government agencies and warned of dire consequences on anyone trying to undermine the collective approach.
The state of emergency comes at an opportune time, giving the federal government more authority in their coordination with regional governments.
Measures taken thus far by Ethiopia
The first confirmed case of coronavirus infection in Ethiopia was recorded on March 13. Thus far, the country has taken a range of measures to try to curb the spread of the virus from school closures as of March 16, restrictions on land border travel on March 23, suspension of flights to over 30 high-risk counties on March 30, banning any public congregations or events, and enforcing mandatory work from home procedures on thousands of civil servants.
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The Ethiopian government is yet to enforce a complete shutdown akin to that in Rwanda, Mauritius, and Uganda. The Prime Minister argued against the practicability of such a measure given a large number of homeless people and an equally larger number of poor who survive daily from hand to mouth. Some opposition leaders voiced their discontent and suspicions about the emergency directive, arguing it was unnecessary.
Postponement of the August elections
On March 31st, the country’s electoral body postponed the upcoming August elections over fears of the coronavirus outbreak. New measures aimed at curbing the virus would have greatly hampered voter registration and training election observers. The electoral board decided to “ suspend all activities” and issue a new date when the “pandemic is over.”
Mass screenings to kick-off
The Ethiopian government will begin a mass screening of people in Addis Ababa. The program will be conducted from door-to-door throughout the entire city. The city deputy mayor, Tekale Uma, disclosed to journalists how the mass screening and testing will start on Monday, April 13. It will first narrow on the districts regarded as most vulnerable and then scale outwards to cover all 117 districts(woredas). The government has also accredited other laboratories across the country to carry out testing.
The logistical manpower will comprise 1200 retired health professionals who heeded the government’s call for assistance in the fight against the pandemic. The measures are a part of the advance preparation as the authorities anticipate a surge. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health launched an official registration portal for healthcare professionals on their website.
Domestic mask production relief mask aid
Ethiopia has ramped up its daily mask production to 10,000 units a day. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the mass production efforts by Hawassa Industrial Park. So far well-wishers such as Jack Ma through the Ma foundation and the UAE government made a donation of 15,000 tonnes worth of medical supplies and PPE.
Over 20,000 street families to be quarantined
A day after the five-month-long state of emergency declaration turned into law, the country started a rehabilitation program for the thousands of homeless residents in Ethiopia. Run by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, it will be carried out in collaboration with four charity rehabilitation programs. If they test negative for the COVID-19, they will be transferred to rehabilitation centers that will provide social services and cater to their basic needs.
Ethiopia to free 4,000 inmates
Ethiopian Attorney General Adanech Abebe, revealed plans to release over 4,000 inmates from its prisons. The measure aims at easing congestion in the prison system as a way of curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Most of those inmates have committed petty crimes and had less than 12-month sentences that were earmarked for release.
Despite all the developments thus far, there is lots of concern over the few numbers of tests that have been done by African governments. Some attribute this to the few numbers of cases recorded.