COVID-19 in Africa: insights from our media briefing with WHO
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, who will speak on growing cases in the region, concerns and how countries can cope.
Lola Castro, Regional Director for Southern Africa, World Food Programme, who will speak on the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and how this will impact vulnerable people who already a difficult time finding enough to eat and accessing other basic services.
Dr Zabulon Yoti, WHO Regional Emergencies Director for Africa
Dr Michel Yao, Emergency Operations Programme Manager, World Health Organization
Adrian Monck, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.
As COVID-19 cases in Africa climb above 6,000, the World Economic Forum convened a question-and-answer session between journalists and senior officials from the World Health Organization and World Food Programme about how the continent’s response is likely to shape up over the coming days.
Why have relatively few governments introduced lockdown measures so far? Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the precautions were expanding as expected. “We are seeing an increasing number of African governments – including South Africa, Botswana and Nigeria – introduce these social distancing measures.” In the Congo, from which she was speaking alongside her colleague Dr Zabulon Yoti, WHO Regional Emergencies Director for Africa, a curfew had been in place “since yesterday”. The measures are expanding on a country-by-country basis, she said.
Joe Bavier of Thomson Reuters wondered whether economic restrictions were influencing government decisions over social distancing. “The economic impact [of COVID-19] is a great concern,” admitted Dr Moeti. She stressed that, due to a large number of people – including traders and casual workers – living in uncertain economic circumstances, governments would “need to put in mitigation measures” in the form of food or financial aid to allow people to stop working if necessary. Otherwise, many would find it difficult to observe the restrictions on movement.
“Many countries have closed schools already, and hundreds of millions of children are already not going to school in Africa,” Dr Moeti said. However, the reality that is conditions in some countries may make social distancing difficult. “[There is a] need to balance the feasibility of these social distancing measures in spaces where physical distances might be quite a challenge, and where people find it very difficult to stay indoors – where it’s hot, the space is small, or the number of people indoors is large,” she said. “But people are trying to do what they can.”
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