Just like in any parts of the world, GEI destination countries have been affected by the global Coronavirus pandemic and government have taken various measures to mitigate the health risks for its population. In this article, you will find:
- How did Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Vietnam handle the crisis?
- Anecdotes and positives news
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Status as of August 1st, 2020 in GEI destination countries
International flights are suspended until further notice. Burundians, choosing to return, are subject to 14 days’ quarantine on arrival. Borders with Rwanda & Democratic Republic of Congo are closed. Mass testing in the capital (only) for people who present Covid-19 symptoms only started from July, 7th. Face masks are advised (only) to be worn in public places. Social distancing is not regulation and has not been adopted much (no change seen in churches, public transportation, markets etc.).
All international flights are suspended until further notice. Returning Kenyans are subject to quarantine for 14 days. Face masks must be worn in public places. Private vehicles may only run at 50% seat capacity. The land borders with Somalia, Uganda and Ethiopia have closed (except for cargo). In a presidential address on July 27th, lockdown measures were extended. Nairobi is in lockdown, a national curfew of 9pm-4am is in place, and sale of alcohol is banned in all eateries. Restaurants must close by 7pm; all bars are closed for the foreseeable future. Restrictions on road, rail and air transport to and from the Nairobi Metropolitan area, and Mombasa and Mandera Counties are in place. July saw a tripling of infections. President Kenyatta blamed the rise in cases on “reckless” behaviour and said there was notably an “aggressive surge” among young people who were socializing, “particularly in environments serving alcohol”, and were, in turn, infecting their elders.
Authorities have eased several COVID-19 restrictions, allowing certain basic supply and service businesses to reopen. Restaurants, arcades, salons, boda-boda (scooter transport) are permitted to open but under strict guidelines. Churches, schools, land borders and airports remain closed. The Uganda Wildlife Authority opened Savannah parks on June 5th, but primate parks remained closed until further notice.
Businesses are operating, masks are compulsory and there is an imposed curfew from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am. The borders are still closed except the returning citizens who must be quarantined for 7 days in designated place and 5 days at home. Tourists can come in with charter flights if they have a confirmed booking to a tourist attraction. Tourists and flight crew members are expected to test negative twice for Covid-19 results. Tourists are expected to test at least once on arrival entering Rwanda. Tourists will be transferred to a transit hotel while waiting for the Covid-19 results, approximately 5 hours and the cost to be included in the tour packages. Starting July 15th, Rwanda is among four African countries whose citizens are allowed into the Schengen area. And, starting August 1st, Kigali International Airport will be open for international visitors.
The government of Tanzania announced on 18 May that it will lift the ban on international flights (as of June 1st), institute temperature checks on arrival and lift the 14-day quarantine for arrivals (unless a high temperature is reported), to promote tourism back into the country. All international travelers and airport service providers are being advised to exercise ‘Infection Prevention and Control measures’, such as frequent hand washing, using a face mask and maintaining social distancing.
Health screening and quarantine protocols on arrival:
- All visitors are required to produce a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test that has been conducted within 72 hours of arriving in Tanzania.
- If visitors’ body temperatures test normal and negative COVID-19 test certificates can be produced, they will be able to enter Tanzania without being subjected to quarantine.
- While in Tanzania, visitors will be expected to adhere to full protective measures against the spread of COVID-19.
All countries are allowed to travel to the destination.
Wearing a face mask is compulsory when leaving one’s home.
On 20 May, extreme social distancing was replaced by a zoning strategy (19 zones) combined with 13 check points between zones.
On July 31st the Greater Gaborone zone returned to lockdown for the third time. Schools and non-essential services were re-closed, no movement without permits. It is expected to last 2 weeks. Otherwise, travel is restored in and out of all zones with an inter-zonal permit required where necessary.
July 31st marks Day 126 of lockdown measures although, at the current Level 3, economic activity is returning under strict regulations. Wearing of masks is mandatory (at penalty of a fine), alcohol and cigarette sales are temporarily banned and schools are closed until August. Domestic travel is slated to open under scrutiny in September while international is closed until further notice, however the sector has presented government with compelling, leading protocols making airports, facilities and the destination “Travel Ready” for the last quarter of the year. The Cape Town International Convention Centre has been repurposed as a field hospital – an example of how the country has brought 1000’s more hospital beds online thanks to flattening the curve via strict lockdown actions. The COVID-19 peak has arrived in July and will last at least through August. The repercussions of extended lockdown on the economy and loss of jobs led to civil protest in the last week of July.
President Edgar Lungu announced on Friday, May 8th already, the easing of ongoing confinement measures allowing certain businesses to reopen (cinemas, restaurants, gyms among them) and authorities are still considering reopening hotels and lodges. Students who are sitting for exams returned to class on June 1.
Bars are closed. It is mandatory to wear face masks in public places.
Public gatherings of more than 50 people are banned.
No nonessential foreign travel is possible. Cross border public passenger services, railway passenger services, and cross border cargo transportation are also suspended, although those carrying essential commodities will be allowed into the country.
Thanks to government’s three-pronged strategy of constant communications about the seriousness of the virus (since January), temperature screening and testing (start of February) and targeted lockdowns (mid of February), Vietnam has been able to lift the lockdown quite early and reopened businesses. The country had gone 100 days without infection before an unexpected cluster of new cases of unknown origin surfaced in the popular central resort city of Da Nang (Central Vietnam) in late July and it recorded its first two Covid-19 fatalities.
How did the country handle the health crisis?
Kenya reported its first case of COVID-19 on 12 March with Mombasa and Nairobi emerging as hot spots but, comparatively, Kenya’s confirmed number of cases at 5400 is low. However, risk communication, laboratory testing and contact tracing have been identified as key challenges. Availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the sub–national level, laboratory testing re-agents and delays in relaying lab results, are some of the key challenges for the Kenyan response.
The same day as its first case on March 19th, Rwanda instituted social distancing, hygiene and sanitizing rules, suspended all flights and closed its borders (except for cargo). On March 21st, the hard lockdown followed, lasting 42 days. On May 4th Rwanda eased the lockdown, allowing some public and private businesses to resume work with essential staff while other employees continued working from home.
South Africa has been recognised globally for its success in flattening the curve, a result of President Ramaphosa listening to experts and responding quickly with social distancing introduced on March 15th and a nationwide, hard lockdown on March 27th. By April 22nd, the WHO’s Mike Ryan lauded South Africa’s efforts, singling out the government’s meticulously crafted approach to stay ahead of the virus’ spread, saying: “The strategy was based on preparation, primary prevention, lockdown and enhanced surveillance”. Knowing the peak was inevitable, they carved out time to better equip the health sector and society to cope.
Despite the long border with China, Vietnam has successfully kept the numbers of coronavirus-related deaths at zero with only 352 confirmed cases until recently. From March 22nd, Vietnam suspended entry to foreign travelers followed by nation-wide hard lockdown for the 1st three weeks of April temporarily shutting down all services except for food, pharmacy, and medical treatments.
Anecdotes and positive News
- During Covid-19, Vietnam produced a public promoting song “Ghen cô Vy” that becomes famous around the world and was translated in 28 languages.
- Local Vietnamese citizens set up many “Rice ATMs‘ (24/7 automatic rice dispensing machine) to provide free rice for poor and jobless
- As lockdown started, almost all cats and dogs in Cape Town’s animal shelters and rescue centres were fostered, ensuring the animals’’ care and survival.
- Phenomenal Positive Youths are young people living positively with HIV, working towards the elimination of stigma and discrimination, adherence to HIV treatment, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services and mental health support in Zambia. Currently, its members are part of the multisectoral risk communication community engagement pillar, as recommended by the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. Under this pillar, they are involved in creating and disseminating messages on COVID-19, busting myths, social listening and raising awareness, under the guidance of the Ministry of Health in Zambia.
- Communities in Rwanda responded to the lockdown by helping their daily-wage neighbors with food items, inspiring government officials, including the President, to give away one-month’s salary to help feed the neediest people.
- Uganda is the only East African country that has not registered a single death yet.
- David Avido, a 24-year-old fashion designer from Kibera, Nairobi (East Africa’s largest informal settlement yet known for its resourceful spirit and now a dynamic creative hub), is known for his signature wax-print bomber jackets and is favoured by reggae stars such as the rising Jamaican singer Koffee. Now he is leading a team of 12 to produce free face masks for local distribution – about 10,000 masks have been handed out in small batches just by friends and community leaders so far.
August 1st, 2020