South Africa begins 'unprecedented' military-patrolled lockdown

AFP Johannesburg, South Africa Mar 27, 2020, 08.36 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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Kenya, Rwanda and Mali are some of the African countries that have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has been confirmed to have infected 3,203 people and killed 87.

South Africa came under a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown on Friday, joining other African countries imposing strict curfews and shutdowns in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus across the continent.

Some 57 million people are to be restricted to their homes during South Africa's three-week total lockdown which began at midnight.

Also see: Countries under lockdown due to coronavirus

Kenya, Rwanda and Mali are some of the African countries that have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has been confirmed to have infected 3,203 people and killed 87.

Although Africa's toll is far lower than in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, health experts say the world's poorest continent is especially vulnerable and the figures likely fall far short of the reality.

Also read: One third of humanity under coronavirus lockdown

Donning camouflage uniform complete with a cap, President Cyril Ramaphosa saw off soldiers before they deployed from a military base in Soweto township outside economic hub Johannesburg.

"I send you out to go and defend our people against coronavirus," Ramaphosa said.  

"This is unprecedented, not only in our democracy but also in the history of our country, that we will have a lockdown for 21 days to go out and wage war against an invisible enemy coronavirus," he said. 

During South Africa's shutdown there will be no jogging, dog-walking or sale of alcohol across the country, which so far has the highest number of detected infections in sub-Saharan Africa at 927, with Ramaphosa projecting it could reach 1,500 "within a few days".

Nigeria's government warned Thursday that Africa's most populous nation could soon see an "exponential" increase in infections unless contacts of confirmed cases are tracked down quicker.