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Assessing Africa’s Lockdown on its People

Many African countries have imposed lockdown measures stricter than countries in Europe and Asia in a bid to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. But, due to the significant variation in living conditions on the continent, implementing these measures is likely to be more difficult in some places than others. A significant proportion of Africans live in high population density slums and townships or urban areas. Effective social distancing is impossible because of overcrowding and poor sanitation. Even where a semblance of lockdown is physically possible, many people in Africa live in poverty, on a hand-to-mouth basis. For them a lockdown is not an option because it means loss of the means to live. Over 330 million Africans, out of a population of 1,3 billion, already live in hunger. Often the need to eat forces people out of their houses. Heavy-handed policing will be recognised as unreasonable and will damage the credibility and legitimacy of both the police and the state at a time when trust is of utmost importance. This will likely reduce public cooperation, leading many to disregard public health messages.