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From the Belly of the Beast

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 3, 2020 17:06

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The coronavirus is rampaging through Africa and lack of data makes it hard to tell what is really going on. Some countries admit to a crisis, some give misleading answers. And there is growing fear that, under cover of the crisis, palace coups are being prepared.

The statistics look good: Africa has relatively few COVID-19 cases and deaths. However, shortages of material caused limited testing in many countries, and often statistics are simply not available. In many countries the disease seems to be spreading faster than it can be tracked.

Tanzania has not released any figures since early May, and President Mangufuli has declared the country virus-free thanks to the prayers of citizens. Independent observers, however, differ and point to a slowing economy and overwhelmed hospitals.

The Government of Nigeria has reversed a decision to open schools but warned that the economy was under strain.

In Kenya protective equipment was issued to complaining health workers after the first medical doctor succumbed to the disease. 61% of Kenyans were reportedly unable to pay rent, and 62.2% found it hard to pay bus fares. President Kenyatta recently announced that travel restrictions would be lifted in an attempt to reinvigorate the economy.  

Amboseli, Kenya. Photo amoghavarsha.com CC BY-SA 3.0

Namibia has cautiously begun to reopen the country, but the major cities where cases were increasing exponentially would be subjected to travel restrictions.

San nation girls from the Jul'hoan group Namibia. Photo Nicolas M. Perrault CC0

Zimbabwe saw the firing of the Health Minister after his arrest on charges of corruption involving USD 60 million. Cross-border smuggling from South Africa was reportedly on the increase, with citizens risking arrest and elephant attacks to find food. Constitutional amendments that would increase the power of the President, limit Parliamentary oversight and weaken the Judiciary are being pushed through with little consultation while COVID-19 restrictions are in force. In the meantime, the economy is dead.

South Africa is at the crest of the pandemic. Cape Town hospitals, private and public, are at full capacity and medical staff can hardly keep up. The Eastern Cape Premier has requested the assistance of the Army as hospitals are overwhelmed, patients reportedly fight each other for oxygen, staff walk out and emergency hospitals stand empty. At one stage only two ambulances were available to transport COVID-19 patients.

Historic Bo-Kaap suburb of Cape Town. Photo SkyPixels. CO BY_SA 4.0

The economic hub of South Africa, Gauteng, warned that the medical facilities would soon be at capacity. Finding an ICU bed and oxygen has become a major problem. The much-vaunted emergency NASREC isolation and quarantine hospital with 800 beds apparently has only eight beds supplied with oxygen. In addition two of the three Cuban medical doctors manning the facility do not speak English. Premier Makhura, recently tested positive, announced that an additional 1,575 new beds are being planned in various state hospitals.

But here, too, claims are emerging that the ruling party plans to centralize political power, nationalize the Central Bank and intervene more directly in the economy, furthering ideological measures that had brought the economy to a recession before the COVID-19 pandemic. Businessmen accuse Government of having wasted the four months' warning and allowing the economy to collapse.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 3, 2020 17:06

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Source: Al Jazeera

Officials consider reimposing restrictions as more than 8,700 infections reported over 24 hours amid lockdown easing.

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