After three weeks, the West African country of Ghana’s coronavirus lockdown has been lifted. This makes it the first country in Africa to not extend the confinement.
In West Africa, Ghana is the worst hit nation in terms of the virus, with 1,042 confirmed cases as of press time. Nevertheless, the country’s leadership has seen it fit to end the lockdown in the regions of Accra and Kumasi.
In a televised address, President Akufo-Addo said Ghana’s coronavirus lockdown is being lifted because testing had improved. According to him, Ghana is now able to undertake aggressive contact tracing of infected persons.
The president also points to the expansion in the number of the nation’s coronavirus treatment and isolations centers. As of April 11th, Ghana has conducted 37,000 tests, at which time it had 408 cases.
To compare, South Africa has tested 73,000 people, the highest in Africa, Ghana comes in second place before Egypt, which has done 25,000 tests. The country of around 30 million has ramped up testing and checked over 68,000 samples.
Ghana, as of April 11, 2020 had tested over 37,000 people and at the time had 408 cases. It was sandwiched between South Africa and Egypt in first and third spots with 73,000+ tests (1,265 cases) and 25,000 tests (1,204) cases respectively.
More interestingly, Ghana is using delivery drones from US-based startup Zipline to enable it to test people more quickly outside major cities for the novel coronavirus.
Another reason Ghana is lifting its virus lockdown is the vulnerability of the country’s poor during these times. With the inability to move around and earn daily income, the lockdown highly affects the nation’s less privileged citizens.
“This decision to restrict movement has occasioned a number of severe difficulties for all of us across the country, especially for the poor and vulnerable,” Akufo-Addo said in his address.
Indeed, the plight to save the poor has driven a wedge through some of Africa’s coronavirus lockdowns. The most telling of them is that of Malawi. The country’s high court blocked the government’s planned 21-day lockdown in a bid to protect the poor, most of whom survive of daily means.
In Ethiopia, Ahmed Abiy has declared a state of emergency, but is reluctant to impose a strict lockdown in fear of the impact it could have on the poor.
Ghana is not one of the poorest countries in Africa. UNICEF says its poverty rate fell from 56.5 percent to 24.2 percent between 1992 and 2013. Nonetheless, there is a huge gap between urban and rural households. Poverty in the former is 10.6 percent, and 37.9 percent in the latter.
In other parts of the continent, countries appear unwilling to take the risk of lifting their movement restrictions—especially as cases continue to increase.
Lagos—Africa’s largest city—went into another 2 weeks after enduring an initial 14 days of the lockdown. South Africa’s case is now at 34 days, although the country is looking to ease things going forward.
Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe have all recently extended their lockdowns to keep containing the virus and prevent its spread.
Ghana’s coronavirus lockdown lifting is a first in Africa, but the government says it might impose restrictions in key hotspots should the pandemic prove rampant.