COVID-19 in Francophone Africa

20 March 2020 06:41

While less impacted than the rest of the world, the African continent still faces the risk of the spread of Covid-19. BWI affiliates in the region are already feeling the effect of the  pandemic. The BWI sub-regional office in Burkina has contacted all affiliates which gave reports saying that many confirmed cases were spread mainly by European tourists and not Chinese persons returning to the French-speaking subregion.

According to numerous reports, many countries are gravely concerned over their medical infrastructure and equipment's capacity to combat a health crisis of such magnitude, while more and more cases continue to be reported. However, these countries are slowly finding ways to mount “general mobilizations” to fight the pandemic. 

BWI affiliates confirm that  the measures undertaken by countries in the region are more or less the same, such as the screening of travelers from high-risk areas, "systematic confinement" like in Congo and "self-isolation" in Côte d'Ivoire. The latter has decided to close its borders to all non-Ivorian travelers from countries where more than 100 cases of coronavirus have been detected. It has also decided to close its mosques for 15 days. 

Similarly, Senegal has called for an end to prayers in mosques to stem the spread of COVID 19. Meanwhile, Burkina Faso has closed all its schools for three weeks and prohibited mass gatherings. 

As of the moment, Burkina Faso and Senegal are the most affected countries with 33 and 36 known cases, respectively. The Vice President of Burkina Faso’s National Assembly is currently the sole fatality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Other French-speaking countries have less than 10 known positive cases each.

While the countries’ health systems have been able to respond to epidemics in the past, like Ebola and Yellow Fever, without substantial aid from developed countries, which are also battling the pandemic, the region will have a difficult time containing the virus. 

In the construction industry, BWI affiliates reported that their governments are reactive in responding to the crisis, even as they try to put in place measures to protect workers. They said that companies are implementing preventive measures on construction sites by providing disinfectants and observing social distancing. 

Senegalese affiliates, for their part, report that construction companies hold 15-minute health and safety trainings to educate workers on the COVID 19 virus before starting daily work. 

Affiliates in the sub-region regularly exchange information about the situation via fora and through different social media tools.