Lockdown Around The World: Africa

Aug 24, 2020

Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres

Since I’m your resident travel writer, it was obvious that when it came to more Covid-19 info, I was going to bring you a story with international flair. As the world slowly emerges from lockdown (and parts go back in, as cases surge again in certain places), we take a look at how measures have varied immensely from one country to the other, and even regionally. Here are a few (well, more than a few) people from various countries, telling you about their experiences during these testing times. A big thanks to my Mum for helping me get people!

Carole Ann, 53, lives in Dakar, Senegal.

She has a two-story house with very little outdoor space, basically a space for some flowers and a backyard with a washing line and sink. She’s married with children and 2 live-in employees. “I’m a translator and my husband has a computer services business. I always work from home, but I have had very few contracts since the crisis hit, less than half my normal workload (and thus, income). My husband ordinarily works from an office. He has found that using Teams, he and his employees can get nearly everything done without travelling. He has more work than ever but is having a hard time getting paid.” Lockdown rules have changed a bit over time. There was a curfew from 8PM to 6AM, but due to religious pressures during Ramadan, this has very recently been relaxed to 9PM to 5AM. Schools and places of worship had been closed, but the government has decided places of worship can reopen due to Ramadan. “Many mosques have said they will not reopen due to the danger to the health of the faithful. The Catholic Church has made an official decision that they will not reopen, but there is a small church near my home led by a European priest that sounded like it was having mass when I walked past it Sunday morning.”

There are rules restricting the number of people who can be in a vehicle at one time (limited to 3 including the driver). This makes public transportation very difficult, although cheap taxis and even cheaper “clandestine taxis” are abundant. “I think the number 3 applies to the smaller, private buses, but I am not sure about the large city buses. There are very long lines for buses and people wait hours, whereas in this huge capital city, buses are numerous and usually jammed full.” There are limited numbers allowed in businesses. “We now take a number and line up (with variable success in terms of spacing) at banks, supermarkets and so on. It is mandatory to wear a mask on public transportation, in businesses or other offices, in hospitals and so on. We are still allowed to walk in the streets without them, although most people seem to wear them.” People are not allowed to travel outside of their district, however, when the restrictions were loosened, the government said that passes would be given to those wishing to travel for the upcoming holiday at the end of Ramadan, although it was strongly recommended not to travel.

“I hope people will behave responsibly. The government has also announced that schools would be reopened on 2nd June, but only for exam classes (junior high school entrance, senior high school entrance and the baccalaureate) and that physical distancing, masks and other precautions would be in place. Weekly markets in the countryside, certain open-air markets in the cities were closed and they restricted markets to 2 days a week for food and 2 days for other items. They also decided to close supermarkets one day every week for cleaning and disinfection. They did relax the rule on the weekly markets. Gyms and nightclubs have been closed and restaurants are only open for delivery. Hotels have been closed and in fact many have been commandeered to house known contacts of people who tested positive, who are kept in observation for two weeks and tested. “I have found lockdown easy for me. I have changed my consuming habits somewhat and have shifted to mostly using an online service that delivers food and other household items. I work at home and don’t have a particularly active social life. I walk for exercise, and I do wear a mask, although I feel like I am suffocating. I took something to a girlfriend a couple of months ago. I handed it to her at arm’s length outside the door and we wore masks. I haven’t seen family outside my immediate household since lockdown began, except for a niece and sister-in-law I ran into at a nearby grocery store and a brother-in-law I saw in my street, we spoke through the open window, at more than 2m distance.” She has young adult children. The younger one is actually happy to lock himself up in his room. He’s on his laptop and phone all day long and claims to be studying. The eldest has multiple handicaps and misses special school but enjoys going on walks and seeing his father and brother around the house. “He misses running errands, which he used to always do with me (when I do go, I don’t take him for his own protection). It hasn’t been too difficult, really. I have to spend more time taking care of him son, which can be difficult when I do have work, but otherwise, when I have no work, it is quite enjoyable for both of us and he has made progress in certain areas thanks to the work I have done with him. Also, like many people around the world, I have been baking cakes, which the children are enjoying”.

Carole Ann thought the government was handling things well until it relaxed the rules, in part due to religious pressure and economic pressure, as well as potentially a desire to imitate France. “The latter is ridiculous because our cases have not peaked – far from it! They are increasing and it is no time, in my view, to relax restrictions or reopen schools. This has me very worried. I think it is much too soon for this country to be coming out of lockdown, because the number of cases and deaths still rises every day. But I miss out without a mask and not being afraid, especially for my handicapped son, whose health is fragile.”

Emmanuelle, 51, lives in Lomé, Togo in a 1,500sq ft apartment without a garden.

She’s single and has three children. She’s a translator and has been working from home for the past 30 years. Rules have been to stay at home unless you have to go out for work and shopping. There’s a curfew from 8PM to 6AM (recently scaled back to 9PM to 5AM). “It’s been easy considering almost nobody understands/abides by the rules. A relative visited yesterday.” Things have been difficult for the children to be indoors for about 7 weeks now. “I think the government has handled the pandemic badly, especially in terms of explaining and communicating. Lockdown hasn’t ended yet but we are just now having an unprecedented increase in cases (one third increase in three days) so I don’t think it’s on the table yet.”

Please note some of these collections are at least one/two months old, so things might already have changed for them.