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African countries tighten borders as coronavirus scourge worsens

African countries on Sunday cancelled flights, closed schools and banned cruise ships from their ports as coronavirus continued its spread across the continent.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa

Declaring a national disaster on Sunday, March 15, 2020, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa moved to close schools and border posts and ban gatherings of more than 100 people.

South Africa has also closed its borders to foreigners from areas hit by the pandemic, he said, the number of coronavirus cases climbed to 61.

Travellers from Germany, Spain, China, the U.S., Italy or Iran would no longer be allowed to enter South Africa, and all visas granted to citizens from these countries would be cancelled, he said.

Similar restrictions would be applied to foreigners who had recently visited high-risk countries.

Madagascar, which is yet to register a case of coronavirus, and the west African state of Senegal, which has 21 cases, took similar precautions on Sunday, with both countries banning all cruise ships from docking in their harbours.

“On average, 6,000 tourists arrive on the island every week,” Madagascan presidential spokeswoman Rinah Rakotomanga told dpa on Sunday.

“They have until March 20 to find a return flight – otherwise they will have to stay in Madagascar for another 30 days,” she added.

Kenya is also set to ban travellers from high-risk areas and restrict entries to citizens and foreigners with valid work permits.

Namibia, which was among the African nations to report its first coronavirus case over the weekend, suspended all flights to Qatar, Germany and Ethiopia for the next 30 days.

Africa had long been thought to have been spared the worst of the global pandemic, but is now seeing the steady creep of the virus, which is now been confirmed in 23 of the continent’s countries.

Rwanda, Eswatini and the Seychelles registered their first cases over the weekend, while Congo, now nearing the end of an Ebola epidemic, confirmed its third case, as did Cameroon and Kenya. Ethiopia registered three new infections, bringing the current total to four.

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