Africa: Life “Almost Normal” After COVID-19, But Not Everywhere

SOWETO | “Everyday life is almost normal again, but we won’t get our life back,” philosopher Petunia Maseko, in a bar in Soweto. Africa, rather spared by COVID-19 which, on the other hand, has stunned its economy, is catching its breath a little after the paralysis linked to the pandemic.

• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic

“It was hard to be deprived of social life,” sighs the young girl in traditional brightly colored Ndebele attire. “It’s still important to de-stress and network,” adds the student with the seriousness of her 21 years.

At the Black and White Lifestyle Pub, excitement is at its height this first weekend of spring, which coincides with the move to level 1 containment, the lowest in six months in South Africa. Masked, customers have their temperature checked at the entrance.

Hydroalcoholic gel in hand, DJ Tiisetso Tenyane is playing “again for people, for real”. After video sessions, “it feels really good”.

Now, “I wear a mask when I leave home, but this is the last real marker of the pandemic,” notes Petunia.

On the rest of the continent, the daily makes the big difference between strict application of sanitary measures and total relaxation.

“We are resuming our habits”

“We don’t care about the corona”: the sentence is from Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara who did not think he would be picked up by the microphones, before kissing, in defiance of the barrier measures, a figure of his party in front of thousands of people in August.

In the Ivory Coast, if the mask remains compulsory in a closed environment, “it is not respected anywhere or almost,” says a health worker on condition of anonymity.

“The psychosis is gone and the state no longer communicates too much on the subject.”

In Kinshasa, taking temperatures and washing hands are observed in the Gombe business district. But in the working-class communes, sagging is everywhere: masks on the chin and tight hands.

For many, “corona eza te” (“There is no corona” in Lingala).

In Burkina, a country which is going through a serious humanitarian and security crisis, Ousmane Ouedraogo, 43, a fish seller, finds that the mask, “you cannot wear it forever”.

“We tried to wear this every day, but it was the authorities who set the example by pretending the disease was over. So we are resuming our habits ”.

The hand washing device at the entrance to Guillaume Traoré’s café-restaurant, “nobody uses it anymore”. And “when you call a customer, he tells you that the coronavirus does not exist or that he does not carry the virus”.

In Chad, as in Gabon, the mask is worn low, covering only the mouth or even the chin, to indicate that it is worn or that it can be hastily raised in the presence of the police.

In churches and mosques, in markets, people jostle and greet each other on contact. In the evening, however, a strict curfew remains imposed.

Contagious neglect

In Lagos, Isiaka Okesanya, 41, offers his entire face to passers-by: his mask has remained at home.

“Over the past few days, I regularly forget about him. God helped us to get rid of the disease, we no longer see big scary numbers, ”explains the official.

The Nigerian government is concerned about contagious neglect. “The numbers are dropping, but we cannot congratulate ourselves yet”, warns the Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire, citing the outbreak of second waves “in rich countries which thought they had overcome the coronavirus”.

“It is still very real there. We must continue to take precautions until we are able to control it, “insists Emmanuel Akinyemi, director of the State Clinic in Lagos.

Africa has been spared the “exponential spread” of the epidemic (lower middle age, low population densities …), WHO noted last week. But “we must be careful not to over-mediate a success” which remains fragile, warns the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the African Union, John Nkengasong.

Kenya, where contamination is slowly declining, reopened its bars on Tuesday and delayed the entry into force of the night curfew by two hours, but kept its schools closed.

In Senegal, life has resumed almost normally since June.

Striking contrast with Rwanda, where one of the strictest lockdowns continues: arrests of those who “do not wear masks properly” and police patrols to prevent gatherings, including private ones.

The curfew ends in the evening, as in Uganda and Kenya.

Facing Europe, Morocco remains in a state of “semi-containment” as in Casablanca, between curfew and strict restrictions. Working-class neighborhoods are tightly sealed off, police checkpoints reappear on the roads.

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