Coronavirus – Africa: Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest (21 May 2020)

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With Lesotho confirming on 13 May its first case of COVID-19, all countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have now been affected by the pandemic. South Africa confirmed that over 19,000 people contracted COVID-19 so far. Numbers are rising in Djibouti, Tanzania and Zambia, while Seychelles and Mauritius have no active cases. In Somalia, where the weak health system lacks capacity to respond, nearly 1,600 people contracted the virus, including 61 who died from the disease to date. Multiple locations have reported a spike in gender-based violence during the outbreak, as communities face rising economic pressure. Resources are urgently needed to scale-up the life-saving response and common services for the outbreak.

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31,064 total cases in the region (as of 21 May)

696 total deaths

26 countries affected in the region


With 58 cases, the country continues the State of Emergency declared on 27 March

First case: 19 March 2020

Total cases: 58 (as of 21 May 2020)

Total deaths: 3

Schools: Closed (affecting nearly 8.7 million leaners).

Borders/flights: All international flights cancelled effective from 20 March 2020. All land borders closed.

Containment measures: National State of Emergency declared on 27 March; domestic travel allowed only for seeking/providing essential services; 14-day self-quarantine for those who had contact with symptomatic people.


Angola had confirmed that 58 people contracted coronavirus in the country, including three who died from the disease, as of 18 May. The first local transmission of the virus was registered on 28 April, increasing concerns of a faster increase in the number of people affected. The Government declared a National State of Emergency on 27 March, banning non-essential internal travel, meetings and public activities, and closing all schools. International flights to and from Angola were suspended on 20 March and the country has also prohibited circulation of people at land borders during the same period. Docking and disembarkation of cargo ships and crew members for medical assistance and humanitarian reasons remain operational.

Separately, on 5 May Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Government to release detainees and improve the capacity to prevent and respond to coronavirus cases in the overcrowded prisons across the country to prevent a health disaster. In a statement, HRW also denounced that the country is allegedly arresting and placing hundreds of people in custody for low-level crimes, leading to a daily influx of new detainees. The human rights group informed that, according to police data released on 1 May, nearly 300 people have been detained for violating the State of Emergency rules. Enforcing the measures outlined in the State of Emergency, the police reportedly informed that the ban on travel, meetings and public activities imposed on 27 March has only been adhered to by a small part of the population, according to media reports.

COVID-19 has arrived in Angola at a time when much of the population was already struggling to meet their basic needs. In 2018-2019, southern Angola experienced a devastating drought – with temperatures the highest seen in 45 years – driving increasing hunger and malnutrition, especially in Cunene, Huíla, Bié and Namibe provinces. Angola is also facing macro-economic challenges following multiple consecutive years of economic contraction since 2014, when the country was hit by the oil price crisis. At least 40.6 per cent of the population live below the national poverty line, and nearly 1 in 2 people (47.6 per cent) live below the international poverty line of US$1.9 per day. COVID-19 is expected to exacerbate the situation for the most vulnerable, with 72.6 per cent of the population relying on informal employment.


The Government has approved a National Contingency Plan to Control the Epidemic.

Additional health care spending to mitigate COVID-19, estimated at US$40 million, has been announced and tax exemptions on humanitarian aid and donations have been granted.

A contingent of over 250 health professionals sent from Cuba on 10 April completed quarantine and has been deployed across the country.

The Ministry of Social Action, Family and Women Empowerment will disburse AOA 315 million (nearly US$562,500) to support food distribution to vulnerable groups.

UN entities in Angola have reallocated $16 million to support the Government-led response to COVID-19, including $12.5 million for the health response and $3.5 million for food security in Namibe, Huila, Cunene and Cuando Cubango provinces.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

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