COVID-19 situation report in East and Southern Africa

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The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 is changing the world at a drastic pace. Countries are closing their borders, suspending all flights and putting nations on lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading. This has a substantial impact on how and what we trade. As COVID-19 infections begin to increase in Africa, African countries are closing their borders in a desperate attempt to keep their people safe and healthy. Below is a summary of how each of the 24 East and Southern African countries have responded to the virus in terms of transport, movement of people and trade.

1. Angola

The Angolan Government announced that as of 20 March 00:00 all sea land and airports are to be closed for a period of 15 days, subject to extension for an additional 15 days depending on the “global behaviour of the disease. The ban includes the circulation of people at land borders, passenger ships docking and the disembarkation of the crew and passengers coming from other countries.

The president stated that this ban is however not applicable to the docking and disembarkation of cargo ships, which are allowed to continue with preventative measures in place.

Shops, restaurants, shopping centres, train and bus stations, places of worship, schools, etc remain open, the public is urged to maintain a safe distance, avoid personal contact and frequently wash their hands.

2. Botswana

A day after the announcement of the first case of infection recorded in Zimbabwe, the government of Botswana decided to close its borders, despite being one of the few African countries to not have recorded a single case as of yet. The main reason for this is the high volumes of border jumpers and illegal immigrants that travel from Zimbabwe to Botswana each year.

Although trade can continue, the government announced importation restrictions on a variety of fruits and vegetables, including butternuts, beetroots, onions and watermelon, sweet melons. The Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), in charge of customs for the country, have yet to make an announcement.

3. Burundi

Burundi, along with Botswana, has reported no infections of the virus at present. However, in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading, the Minister of Public Security has suspended all flights, with the exception of cargo, medical evacuations, humanitarian and diplomatic flights. He assured the public that borders into the country will remain open but that citizens should be careful and avoid traveling. Apart from flights being suspended, no serious health and safety precautions or restrictions have been implemented.

4. Comoros

The Union of Comoros suspended all international commercial flights, with the exception of cargo flights. The National Agency for Maritime Affairs made a similar announcement, allowing for cargo but strictly prohibiting the movement of people between the Union and East Africa specifically. Anyone entering the country from a high-risk country will be strictly quarantined for 14 days. All ports remain open, and without restrictions for trade.

5. Djibouti

Certain activities are being suspended, such as schools, while shopping centres and supermarkets remain open. The country has suspended all international flights until further notice with the exception of cargo aircrafts. The seaport remains open to trade however all cargo will be inspected by quarantine, which has caused some congestion. Rail and truck movement for cargo between Djibouti and Ethiopia remains normal.

6. Eritrea

All commercial flights to and from Eritrea are suspended for a two-week period, starting 25 March 2020. The government has also issued strict guidelines for citizens to follow, including avoiding non-essential movement in villages and gatherings are to be held with no more than 10 people.

7. Eswatini

As of yet there seems to be no restriction on the movement of goods or people in or out of the country, other than the restrictions implemented by neighbouring countries. The Minister of Trade announced in a letter on 25 March that cross-border trade will continue as normal.

8. Ethiopia

Ethiopia has closed all land borders and the national airline Ethiopian Airlines has suspended flights to over 30 countries. The airport remains open to other airlines and cargo flights. The landlocked country relies on Djibouti and Kenya’s seaports for trade, which will drastically be reduced.

9. Kenya

For the time being all seaports in Kenya remain open, with heavy restrictions and safety measures in place. Social distancing is mandatory in all port procedures, ships need to send a maritime declaration of health, crew list, voyage memo and ship exemption certificate prior to arrival at port. Screenings and medical assistance are available upon request. Delays of between 24-48 hours have been reported.

10. Lesotho

Lesotho sealed all borders to all travel as the landlocked country, neighbouring only South Africa tries to keep the virus outside its borders.

11. Madagascar

Although all cruise ships have been banned, cargo ships are allowed to all ports. A quarantine officer will board every ship and check the crew before allowing the ship to berth. As of yet no delays have been reported. All international flights will be suspended for 30 days. Travel between islands, including the Union of Comoros, Mayotte and Reunion Island has been suspended. The government of Madagascar has suspended all flights and certain high-risk areas have been placed on lockdown.

12. Malawi

Malawi’s borders remain open as the country has not recorded any infections as of yet. Health and safety precautions are being taken as everyone entering borders are screened, schools are being closed and restrictions on social gatherings are implemented.

13. Mauritius

All the ports in Mauritius remain operational and no delays are expected for the foreseeable future. The Health Authorities are in the process of drafting procedures on handling vessels that have sailed less than 14 days from their last port of call. All flights to Mauritius have been suspended and the country is in lockdown until 2 April 2020.

14. Mozambique

Mozambique’s seaport at Maputo will remain operational and open to trade although delays have been reported. Similar to regulations in Kenya a list of documentation, including a Declaration of crew health on board needs to be forwarded to authorities prior to arrival at port. If a vessel has travelled less than 14 days prior to arrival at Maputo, the vessel must remain at anchorage until 14 days has passed since its last departure, upon which the vessel may be berthed. All cruise ships have been banned.

15. Namibia

All the major trading seaports in Namibia remain open and functional for cargo vessels, all cruise ships have been banned. A list of a vessels last 10 ports of call along with a health declaration needs to be submitted before entering port limits and crew movements have been drastically restricted. Namibia’s airports remain open and functional however some flights have been suspended and all passengers go through screening upon arrival. Passengers from high-risk areas are placed in quarantine for 14 days.

16. Rwanda

Rwanda has closed all borders and suspended all commercial flights, while goods and cargo are allowed to move across borders. The country has also imposed strict regulations on citizens, discouraging any “unnecessary” movement and banning travel between towns and outdoor events and all bars have been closed.

17. Seychelles

All seaports in Seychelles remains open to cargo vessels but all cruise ships have been banned. Any vessel carrying a crew member that has been in China, South Korea, Italy, Spain or Iran in the past 14 days will not be allowed to enter the port limits. The same rules apply for airlines and air travel. As of yet there have been no delays experienced.

18. Somalia

Somalia’s government announced a ban on international flights in and out of the country which is extended to cargo flights. Seaports are still operational.

19. South Africa

35 of South Africa’s 53 land ports of entry were closed on 16 March 2020 due to the outbreak of the virus within the country’s borders. However, only one of these ports of entry was used for commercial purposes.

On 23 March 2020 it was announced that South Africa will be going into lockdown for a period of 21 days. During this period South Africa’s main seaports will remain open but operating at a reduced capacity. Terminals in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town will continue, with most terminals operating on a single berth, with the exception of Durban Container Terminals Pier 2, which will operate on two berths, all berths will operate on reduced staff. No delays have been reported as of yet.

Flights to Lanseria Airport and all domestic flights have been suspended. Passengers who have been in high risk areas are not allowed to enter the country, with exceptions to nationals and residents who will be placed under quarantine for 14 days.

Additional health and safety measures are in place at each port. However, authorities requested that people make use of digital channels for interacting with customs and to contact custom officials via telephone or email. It has also been exclaimed that essential goods being imported will be priorities for inspection and clearance, which is to proceed as normal.

20. South Sudan

South Sudan has imposed a ban on all international flight, with the exception of cargo flights. Land borders remains open and operational as the landlocked country heavily relies on these ports to obtain essential goods. Strict health and safety measures are however in place.

21. Tanzania

All major seaports in Tanzania remains operational for cargo vessels. A crew list, port call list and International Maritime Health declarations need to be sent to Port Health 48 hours prior to arrival. Vessels traveling from high-risk areas with a travel time of less than 14 days will be quarantined until the 14 days have passed. Cruise ships are strictly banned. As of yet delays of no more than 1 hour has been experienced. Airports remain open but all passenfers arriving are subject to quarantine at their own cost.

22. Uganda

President Museveni announced that all commercial flights will be suspended, while cargo flights will continue as normal. The president also stated that no foreign national will enter the country through land or seaports except for those transporting goods into the country.

23. Zambia

Zambia has not yet closed their borders, however, being landlocked the country has expressed increasing difficulty trading goods with neighbouring countries all closing their borders. Although the country has not yet closed their borders, they are increasing health and safety precautions and screening all persons at all ports of entry.

24. Zimbabwe

Following the first casualty, President Mnangagwa announced that all borders will be closed, with the exception of essential travel and cargo, with strict screenings being implemented at all borders. All large gatherings have been banned and bars, restaurants, night clubs and swimming pools have been closed.


Table 1 – Coronavirus COVID-19 spread and border closures in ESA

Country
Infections
Deaths
Border closure
Angola
3
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Botswana
0
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Burundi
0
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Comoros
0
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Djibouti
11
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Eritrea
4
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Eswatini
4
0
Borders are open to people and goods
Ethiopia
12
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Kenya
31
0
Borders are open to people and goods with the exception of shipments from Asia travelling less than 14 days.
Lesotho
0
0
All borders are sealed
Madagascar
23
0
Seaports remain open to cargo
Malawi
0
0
Borders are open to people and goods
Mauritius
52
2
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Mozambique
5
0
Seaports remain open to cargo
Namibia
7
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Rwanda
41
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Seychelles
7
0
Borders are open to people and goods with the exception of passengers and shipments from Asia
Somalia
2
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
South Africa
709
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
South Sudan
0
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Tanzania
13
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Uganda
14
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Zambia
12
0
Borders are open to people and goods
Zimbabwe
3
1
Borders closed to people, but trade continues

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