Proposed strategies for easing COVID-19 lockdown measures in Africa.Pan Afr Med J. 2020; 36:179.PA
As SARS-CoV-2 rapidly spread across the globe, short-term modeling forecasts provided time-critical information for containment and mitigation strategies. Global projections had so far incorrectly predicted large numbers of COVID-19 cases in Africa and that its health systems would be overwhelmed. Significantly higher COVID-19-related mortality were expected in Africa mainly because of its poor socio-economic determinants that make it vulnerable to public health threats, including diseases of epidemic potential. Surprisingly as SARS-CoV-2 swept across the globe, causing tens of thousands of deaths and massive economic disruptions, Africa has so far been largely spared the impact that threw China, USA, and Europe into chaos. To date, 42 African countries imposed lockdowns on movements and activities. Experience from around the world suggests that such interventions effectively suppressed the spread of COVID-19. However, lockdown measures posed considerable economic costs that, in turn, threatened lives, put livelihoods at risk, exacerbated poverty and the deleterious effects on cultures, health and behaviours. Consequently, there has been great interest in lockdown exit strategies that preserve lives while protecting livelihoods. Nonetheless in the last few weeks, African countries have started easing restrictions imposed to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2. WHO recommends lifting of lockdowns should depend on the ability to contain SARS-CoV-2 and protect the public once restrictions are lifted. Yet, the greatest challenge is the critical decision which must be made in this time of uncertainties. We propose simple strategies on how to ease lockdowns in Africa based on evidence, disease dynamics, situational analysis and ability of national governments to handle upsurges.