Africa’s integrated response to COVID-19
10 Jun 2020
The global pandemic of the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in leaders in Africa imposing strict controls to help curb the virus in their respective countries. While Africa has had the benefit of learning from the responses of other countries in Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and China, as a continent it faces many challenges not faced by more affluent nations. Despite poverty, lack of healthcare resources, high rates of HIV infection and lack of essential infrastructure, the continent has seemingly been spared the exponential rates of initial infections experienced on other continents, potentially due to the measures taken to curb the spread of the virus. Learnings from other health crises such as HIV/AIDs and Ebola are proving valuable in the implementation of health care interventions.
The Government of Zimbabwe declared a State of Disaster and imposed a strict lockdown which started on the 30 of March 2020 with an initial end date of 19th April 2020. This was subsequently extended and now has been further extended indefinitely, subject to fortnightly review from 31 May 2020. When the lockdown was initially imposed, except for those engaged in essential services, every individual was to be confined to his or her home and could only leave to buy basic necessities including medicines, fill fuel or gas. Since then there has been a relaxation of certain regulations. Businesses may operate within scheduled times and the screening and testing of employers and employees for COVID-19, within 14 working days of resuming work for the first time since 7 May 2020, is mandatory. The term “Essential Services” has been extended to include the operation of several industries and services including communications and telecommunication services, mining operations, businesses or industries in the formal commercial and industrial sector, manufacturers and distributers of medical supplies to combat COVID-19 and agricultural activities including the supply and distribution of veterinary requirements.
Transport services are now operational under strict conditions; truck stops have been designated in respect of transit goods vehicles; and borders remain closed except for returning Zimbabwean nationals, permit holders and cargo. Government establishments and schools remain closed during this period, however public examinations at schools, colleges, universities, and other tertiary education institutions may now be conducted. The operation of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, certain Courts and Ethiopian Airways into and out of aerodromes is now permitted.
False reporting of news relating to the virus and the hoarding of medical supplies needed to combat COVID-19 are an offence. The export of medical supplies needed to combat COVID-19 is prohibited, unless approved by the Minister. The wearing of face masks in public places is now mandatory in Zimbabwe.
In Kenya, the Government issued a State Curfew Order, in terms of which no public gatherings, processions or movement either alone or as a group will be permitted to take place during this period, with the exception of those engaged in essential services. County Governments have acted accordingly and suspended any sittings of Council and COVID-19 Committees have been established. Judicial Practice Directions have also been issued on the 17th of April 2020 as well as Rules providing for the Prevention, Control and Suppression of COVID-19.
The Government of Namibia has also declared a period of lockdown from the 27 March, which was then extended until the 1st of June 2020 and has again been extended until the 28 June. Public gatherings were prohibited during the lockdown, travel restrictions have been imposed including refusal of entry into the country save for certain exceptions. A stay at home policy is in place and persons can leave their homes only under certain circumstances. Like other countries, essential services and workers in Namibia are exempt from the lockdown provisions. Just as in South Africa, the sale of alcohol in Namibia is prohibited during the lockdown. Educational institutions, establishments, and businesses (except for those now deemed as essential services for the purpose of resuming operations) are closed during this time. Restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops may remain open on condition that they only provide take away services. Judicial Practice Directions and Orders dealing with the way Medical Aids are to treat members and financial payments in terms of the Banking Institutions Act have been published. Various COVID-19 Directives have been issued relating to: Child Protection Response; Inmates and Movement of Offenders; the Provision of Potable Water; Registered Business Entities, Operations of Retail Traders and Other Businesses; the Environment, Forestry and Tourism; the Fishing Industry; Open Markets and Informal Trading; Directives relating to Works and Transport; and Labour . The time periods or limits for institution of legal proceedings in terms of certain Acts have been suspended for the duration of the lockdown period.
The Kingdom of Eswatini has also passed COVID-19 Regulations. Gathering of more than twenty people have been prohibited and funerals, memorial services or other gatherings may not last for more than 2 hours. Restrictions have been placed on restaurants, food outlets and the sale of liquor. Consumer protection measures have been put in place to prevent unfair practices and price increases. Travelling in and out of the Kingdom of Eswatini is prohibited save for essential travel. The spreading of rumours or unauthenticated information on COVID -19 is considered an offence.
Visits to certain detention facilities and correctional centres have been suspended. Schools and Tertiary institutions have been closed during the period of the State of emergency, which was declared on 17 March 2020, and was followed by a lockdown which has now been extended to 19 June 2020. Obligations have been placed on individuals to report suspected cases of COVID-19, with every person in the Kingdom of Eswatini required to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Further, citizens are obligated to notify the Ministry of Health of any person, who within their knowledge, has a travel history to COVID-19 affected countries and has complaints of fever, cough, respiratory difficulty or even without any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or is a contact person.
The first positive case of COVID-19 in Angola was registered on 21 March 2020, with the President of the Republic of Angola declaring a State of Emergency on 25 March. This commenced on 27 March for a period of 15 days and was extended on numerous occasions due to the rise in infections. The laws imposed, and measures implemented, included the closure of private commercial establishments unless deemed essential services, and were similar to those imposed in South Africa.
On 25 May, the President, in terms of Presidential Decree No. 142/2020, declared a Situation of Public Calamity in Angola which replaced the State of Emergency and which will remain in force for as long as the spread of the virus poses a risk to both human life and to the economy. The measures in terms of the Presidential Decree provides for the sanitary fence in the Province of Luanda, commencing from midnight on 26 May 2020 to 23:59 on 9 June 2020.
Some of the measures imposed in terms of the new legislation include the allowance for public services to operate from 8:00 to 15:00 from 26 May at 50% workforce capacity, increasing to 75% on 8 June (Luanda, from 29 June); and at 100% from 29 June (Luanda, from 13 July). Restaurants may operate from Monday to Saturday, from 06:00 to 15:00 effective from 26 May, and every day until 22:00 from 8 June – subject to hygienic and social distancing measures as well as restrictions on capacity. Markets may operate five days a week from Tuesday to Saturday between 06:00 to 15:00 and religious gatherings may commence on 24 June. Public transport may commence from 26 May with a limit of 50% capacity, increasing to 75% from 8 June. Government also defined the measures for industrial, agricultural, and fishing activities, education establishments, entertainment establishment, sporting activities, civil construction, and visitation in respect of hospitals and prisons.
With a view to safeguarding human life, and the need to ease certain restrictions in an effort to recover from the negative impact on the economy, strict adherence to these measures is still required to achieve the objectives to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Botswana declared the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency on 20 March 2020 and imposed similar measures to other countries, including social distancing and hygiene precautions, as per the World Health Organisation’s (“WHO”) instructions. The sale of liquor and the operation of restaurants was prohibited until further notice. Gambling licenses have also been suspended.
Botswana’s Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations were published on 2 April 2020. These Regulations imposed a national lockdown from 2 April, codified the country’s lockdown provisions and described which services were essential during the emergency period. As with other countries, Botswana’s borders remain closed during the lockdown and entry into the country is not permitted without government authorization.
From 21 May 2020, Botswana moved into Phase 3 of its phased approach to re-open the country and economy. The country has been divided into “COVID Zones” and different restrictions may be imposed in different zones, depending on the spread of the disease. Travelling, trade and movement restrictions imposed at the start of the lockdown are being gradually eased but social distancing, temperature screening and sanitizing measures are mandatory in all sectors.
Due to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, applicable from 1 March 2020, 75% of any two tax payments that would have been due between 1 March 2020 and 31 September 2020 have now been deferred to allow for payment from 1 March 2021 to 31 December 2021. Eligibility criteria for the deferment differs depending on the taxpayer’s annual turnover.
Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritius and Zambia have also imposed COVID-19 Regulations to help curb the spread. The common thread amongst these countries are the prohibitions imposed as well as an allowance for critical service workers to operate during this time.
For more information and to visit the free LexisNexis COVID-19 Resource Centre click here.
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