KAMPALA, UGANDA (April 1,2020) With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise across Africa, governments on the continent are stepping up enforcement of social distancing measures. According to a recent report from TIME magazine, law enforcement and military personnel are using force, including beatings of civilians to ensure compliance with curfew orders.
In response to the situation, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which provides HIV treatment and services across 13 African countries, called for restraint in violent enforcement measures and an increased focus on public health interventions.
“We realize the importance of social distancing, particularly in places where healthcare systems can be quickly overwhelmed by a surge of COVID-19 cases—but in informal settlements and townships where over-crowded living conditions are common, it is simply not possible for some people,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “We urge governments to prioritize education of communities about the disease, symptom diagnosis and isolation of infected persons in economically disadvantaged and densely populated areas, along with distribution of food and water.”
While Africa has so far been spared from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of cases is growing across the continent. The total number of confirmed cases stands at 5,882, with South Africa reporting the largest number of cases at 1,353. However, the actual number of cases can be substantially higher due to constrained testing capacity.
“Africa has some of the lowest per capita spending on healthcare in the world, and as a result, the system is vulnerable to sudden shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. But we do have significant experience in infection control and public health interventions that have been gained over the years of fighting HIV, Ebola, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung, AHF Africa Bureau Chief. “That being said, we need to strike a balance between enforcement of public health measures and the realities of everyday life for millions of Africans – to survive this crisis we need a fine-tuned approach, and violence certainly doesn’t help. This is not the time to stigmatize or ostracize anyone, but rather to stand together as communities in the fight against COVID-19.”