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DW Africa correspondents on life under COVID-19

Ineke Mules
March 29, 2020

As the global pandemic evolves, Africa is taking measures to defend itself. We asked our correspondents across the continent of 54 nations how their countries are coping and how their own lives have been affected.

Südafrika | Ausgangssperre wegen Coronavirus
Image: Reuters/S. Hisham

Thuso Khumalo in South Africa

It's day one of the lockdown in South Africa and towns already resemble ghost cities as citizens heed the government's call to stay at home. The military and the police have taken over the streets. Citizens who need to buy medicine, visit a doctor or buy groceries are the only ones allowed to step outside their yards.

DW Korrespondent Thuso Khumbalo in Südafrika
Image: DW

Many citizens feel this is some form of imprisonment that will leave them traumatized. However, with the number of those infected with the coronavirus rising, many say it is better to be alive in a prison than die. For me as a journalist, conducting interviews via WhatsApp, Skype and the telephone have become my new way of getting stories. My dining room table has been turned into a broadcasting desk. It's a strange new normal for me, but one that I have to get used to if I am to avoid the coronavirus.

In South Africa, the number of confirmed cases has passed the 1,000 mark, the highest recorded in a country in Africa.

Read more: Aid organizations scramble to plan for coronavirus shutdowns

Andrew Wasike in Kenya

Andrew Wasike
Image: DW/A. Wasike

Coronavirus is suddenly on everyone's mind in Nairobi — a threat that government officials are saying is not a threat. March 12 was the last time I was in a restaurant. March 13 was the last time I shook someone's hand. March 18 was the first time in my life that I saw less than 50 people during a walk through the city. The minibuses here — called matatus — are now charging double or triple because they have to be at less than half of capacity to avoid crowding. People are avoiding each other and wearing masks. The price of food, transport and basic necessities has skyrocketed. Kenyans will indefinitely be subjected to a curfew from 7pm to 5am. This will change life as we know it here.

Kenya has 31 cases of confirmed infection, however the government has implemented strict measures and thousands of people have lost their jobs due to social distancing measures.

Read more: Coronavirus: How Africa has been preparing for outbreak

Muhammad Al-Amin in Nigeria

Life has drastically changed in my country. I have to wear a face mask when interviewing people on the streets. I also have to practice social distancing at work and other places. I go to shops and mini markets to buy food and other things more often, but this time I have been forced to change my habits. I also have to ensure I'm fully protected. My main concern now is how quickly coronavirus is spreading in the country, and some people not respecting the government's orders to follow social distancing measures. Extreme poverty levels make it difficult for people to stop work even for a short while, so all of the open-air markets are still open in northeastern Nigeria, where I live. 

Muhammad Al-Amin
Image: DW

Nigeria has 89 confirmed cases of coronavirus, although Africa's most-populous nation has carried out very few tests compared to other states like South Africa.

Waakhe Simon Wudu in South Sudan

Like many here and other parts of the continent, I am worried as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more real. All border points neighboring my country, including the Juba International Airport, have been shut down for the last one week. I can no longer visit my family in Uganda, where my parents and other siblings live. I am coming to terms with no longer greeting others with handshakes, and restricted movement to my usual coffee joints and even church. Although I still walk to work, I have cut contacts with many sources.

Waakhe Simon Wudu DW Korrespondent im Sudan
Image: DW

While South Sudan so far has no confirmed case of COVID-19, all countries surrounding have recorded cases. This scares me. So I have decided and stock up food as a contingency plan considering the rising price of goods and services across the country.

Read more: Opinion: Africa's COVID-19 lockdown - A death trap of another kind for the poor

Isaac Kaledzi in Ghana 

I'm currently locked up in my room because I can't go out like I usually do. I often need to be out there to be able to tell the stories that I do as a journalist, but is has become difficult to do that in terms of the restrictions on public gatherings. So I'm restricted to working from the house and that makes it difficult for me to get the basic necessities that I need for my family. I'm not able to go to church and there have been family gatherings that I can't attend. People are sad about what is happening and interaction has become a challenge. You could say it's brought the whole country to a standstill.

Isaac Kaledzi in Ghana
Image: DW/I. Kaledzi

Ghana has registered at least 137 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with the government set to impose a partial lockdown from March 30.

Mirriam Kaliza in Malawi

DW Korrespondentin Mirriam Kaliza in Malawi
Image: DW

Malawi still hasn't recorded a single case of coronavirus. I don't know what would have become of us if we had cases of coronavirus. I don't think that even our public hospitals have capacity to treat people. But a lot of things have changed, from the mood to social interaction and how people treat each other on the streets and even in the workplace. Every morning when I come into the office, before I interact with anyone, I need to wash my hands with soap. The secretary also has to give me a face mask and gloves. It's so difficult to type on the keyboard wearing gloves. But we have to protect those around us and protect ourselves at the same time. The social distancing is also hard because it's so culturally embedded here. I have seen people on social media talking about how hard it is not to shake hands. But coronavirus has put us in this position. The government has also prepared strict measures to ensure that if the virus does come, there won't be any room for it to spread further.

Although there are no confirmed cases in Malawi, the government has shut schools and banned gatherings of over 100 people.

Claudia Anthony in Sierra Leone

The church bells don't ring and the mosques don't call for prayers. Markets are still open from 7am to 7pm, with a few traders and buyers. Public vehicles now have less passengers and hand washing has become more common, with buckets and soap found across the country; even in many homes I've visited. These measures form part of the response to the president's proclamation of a year-long state of health emergency, aimed at preventing the COVID-19 from entering the country – there still haven't been any cases recorded.

Claudia Anthony
Image: DW

Sierra Leone, along with Guinea and Liberia were the worst hit by the ebola epidemic of 2014—2016. 

Read more: Coronavirus: The lessons to learn from Ebola

Nasra Bishumba in Rwanda

If someone told me two weeks ago that I'd be in my house on Friday washing the dishes instead of being in the office, I probably would have laughed. But for the last six days that has been my reality - and probably the reality of everyone in Rwanda right now. It's a very tough time for Rwandans right now. I cannot work from home because the internet is very slow. My neighbors cannot go to work and they're really having a hard time taking care of their families. Right now, the only time you are allowed to leave home is if you are going to the hospital or to the market. But many people won't be able to feed their families because prices are getting higher by the day. 

Rwanda was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to impose a total shutdown because of the coronavirus. There have been 54 confirmed cases so far.

Read more: Coronavirus: Rwanda imposes Africa's first lockdown

DW correspondent Tulanana Bohela on life under the threat of COVID-19

Henri Fotso in Cameroon

Henri Fotso | Henri Fotso
Image: DW/E. Topona

I don't go out very much, so I'm mostly in home office mode. When I do go out, I wear a mask and avoid touching my face with my hands. My children know that when I get home, they need to wait for me to change and wash first before they can greet me. When I get home, my shoes also stay outside. I do my interviews via WhatsApp and if I do a live interview, I cover my microphone with a sanitary napkin, which I then throw away afterwards. So I'm essentially in restrictive and preventative mode.

Cameroon has so far recorded 91 confirmed cases. The United Nations has called for a ceasefire in the country's restive Anglophone regions to enable efforts to curb the spread of of the virus.

Read more: Cameroon's separatist leader is willing to talk peace, but only with UN backing

Julien Adaye in Ivory Coast

I wear a mask and gloves and use disinfectant gel. Since Thursday afternoon, journalists have been given a special permit to move around the country, so I don't have any work restrictions at the moment.

Ivory Coast has so far recorded over 100 confirmed cases.