By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
The government of Eritrea imposed a 21-day national lockdown as cases continued to rise steadily. The full lockdown and measures accompanying it was published on April 1 by the Ministry of Information.
As of today, the tally stood at 22, the Ministry of Health confirmed. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information reports about how the Eritrean diaspora are undertaking different measures to support the COVID-19 combat back home.
One area that has been highlighted is the financial contributions which according to a pro-government outlet, Tesfanews had risen to over a million dollars.
Key planks of the stay at home order issued by the High Level Task Force on COVID-19 included amongst others that:
- All citizens are compelled to stay at home. This directive will not apply to those engaged in indispensable developmental and security tasks.
- Members of a household, not exceeding two at a time, are allowed to go out from their homes to buy essential food items during the day. This conditional permission also holds for emergency medical treatment.
- All trading activities and transactions will be banned in this period. Similarly, weekly markets that occur in various parts of the country will remain closed. Food production, supply and processing enterprises as well as grocery stores, pharmacies and banks will however continue to provide services. These institutions will close at 8:00 pm every evening.
- All Government Institutions will stop routine services and functions to focus on indispensable developmental and security tasks. Majority of public sector employees will thus stay at home.
- With the exception of citizens employed in institutions that will continue their functions, all other individuals confined to their homes are not allowed to use their private cars during this period.
- Major productive and service sectors (manufacturing, food processing, construction, Trucking etc.) will continue their functions.
March 30, 2020: Eritrea cases reach 15
Eritrea’s Ministry of Health on Monday confirmed three new cases bring the country’s tall to 15. “Three passengers that came to Eritrea prior to the ban on flights, (enforced on March 25), were diagnosed positive for COVID-19 during tests carried out today,” an official statement said.
Whiles all the patients are said to be receiving necessary medical treatment, the government has rolled out a new series of guidelines in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Amongst others:
1. Relevant government authorities will take punitive measures from tomorrow, 31st March 2020, on all citizens and institutions that violate the guidelines.
2. Bars, restaurants, cafés and other service outlets that cater to sizeable clients will be closed for 14 days from 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, 31st March 2020. All employees of these enterprises will not be laid off and their full salary for the period in question will be borne by the employer.
3. Essential enterprises, banks, pharmacies, groceries and outlets for other necessary consumer goods will remain open.
4. Payment of electricity, water and telephone household bills will be postponed.
5. All court sessions – at all levels – will be postponed until further notice.
6. All Government bodies will issue and observe detailed guidelines to implement all measures taken to-date in their respective institutions.
March 29, 2020: Eritrea cases double
Six more passengers that came to Eritrea prior to the ban on flights, (enforced on March 25), were diagnosed positive for COVID-19 during tests carried out in the past three days.
Five of these are women while their age ranges from 32 to 60. Four of these patients were quarantined originally on arrival at Amara International Airport.
The two asymptomatic patients were not, however, quarantined on arrival as none of the passengers in that flight exhibited any symptom during screening at the Airport at the time.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country has now reached 12. All the patients are receiving necessary medical treatment.
March 26, 2020: Eritrea cases up to six
Two other passengers who returned home with Air Arabia Airlines on Monday 23 March tested positive, bringing the total number of patients in the country diagnosed with COVID-19 to six. All the patients are receiving necessary treatment and their condition remains satisfactory.
As underlined in previous weeks, the Government of Eritrea has been, and continues to take, several important measures to contain and fully stop the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. In this respect, the MoH issues the following additional guidelines today:
1. All institutions of learning – from Kindergarten to Colleges – will be closed starting tomorrow, 27 March 2020.
2. All public transport vehicles – buses, minibuses and taxis – in all the cities will stop services from 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, March 27th. Use of trucks for public transport is illicit and punishable by law.
3. With the exception of those who may be granted special permit by the competent authority in urgent circumstances, all public transport services from one Region to another, or from one city to another, will likewise be stopped from 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, 27 March 2020.
4. These guidelines will remain effective until further notice.
5. Although all Government institutions play a significant role in the effective implementation of the current and previous guidelines, it is nonetheless incumbent on every citizen to act with due diligence and responsibility to ensure his/her own good health and safety as well as those of his/her family.
6. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments and trends regarding COVID-19 and issue, as necessary, further information and guidelines.
Source: Ministry of Information
March 25, 2020: Eritrea cases up to four, commercial flights banned
1. Three passengers who arrived in Asmara from Dubai with flight Air Arebi on Saturday 23 March at 5:00 a.m. LT, were diagnosed positive for COVID-19, today. All three passengers are Eritrean nationals resident in the country.
This puts the total number of infected individuals, to-date, to four. The passengers who were on the same flight with the patients and all those who came in physical contact with them have been quarantined.
All the patients are receiving necessary treatment at Villagio Hospital (Asmara) and remain in satisfactory condition.
2. In this connection, commercial passenger flights to and from Eritrea will not be allowed from midnight today, (25 March 2020). The ban will remain effective for two weeks until further review.
3. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments and trends regarding COVID-19 and issue, as necessary, further information and guidelines.
March 23, 2020: Eritrea issues stricter guidelines
Eritrea’s Ministry of Health has issued its third in a series of coronavirus related Public Guidelines. The rules come in the wake of the index case of the pandemic in the county.
“… an Eritrean national resident in Norway who flew to Asmara last Saturday, March 21st, was confirmed positive for COVID-19. The patient is receiving all necessary treatment while passengers who travelled on the same Airline were subsequently quarantined,” a statement from the Ministry of information said.
The Ministry urged the entire populace to “take utmost precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic and to strictly implement Government guidelines for the safety of their own lives and the country.”
The additional guidelines include:
1. Every person should avoid non-essential movement within the city or village of residence as well as travel to other places inside the country. Every person should likewise avoid travel by bus, mini-bus and taxis unless in emergencies.
2. All public gatherings, sport and cultural events that assemble a crowd of more than 10 people are prohibited. Cinemas and night-clubs will remain closed until further notice. Social distancing must be heeded to in other commercial units and centers.
3. Aggregation of more than 10 people at social events (funerals, weddings, mourning, baptism and other gatherings) is banned.
4. Every citizen must observe, and same instruction is being given by religious leaders to the faithful, prayers and associated religious sermons in their homes.
5. All Eritrean nationals living abroad are urged to take all necessary precautionary measures for their own safety, the safety of their families as well as the Eritrean communities. They should also refrain from travelling to Eritrea.
6. Stringent legal measures will be taken on all individuals and commercial enterprises that engage in hoarding and speculative price hikes by misconstruing the precautionary measures that are being taken to safeguard the safety of the Eritrean people and the country.
7. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments regarding COVID-19 and issue additional information and guidelines as necessary.
March 21, 2020: Eritrea records index case (Statement)
A 39-year old Eritrean national who has permanent residence in Norway arrived at Asmara International Airport at 7:00 a.m. today, March 21st, from Norway with Fly Dubai.
The patient exhibited symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the screening process in the airport. He was quarantined promptly and diagnosed positive for COVID-19 after subsequent tests at the National Health laboratory. The patient is receiving all necessary treatment.
March 18, 2020: Eritrea national exams underway
Eritrea like most countries across the continent is taking precautions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The country is however going on with academic activity relative to the National School Leaving Examination 2019/2020 which started on Wednesday 18 March across the country.
A statement from the Ministry of Education quoted Dr. Bisrat Gebru, Director of the National Testing Center, as confirming that “the examination will continue until the 23rd of this month, and will include 13 fields of studies.
“Dr. Bisrat also indicated that a total of 14,960 students including 7,149 females are sitting in the examination that is being conducted in 8 testing stations.”
The director further disclose that the parallel examination that was given in the International Eritrean Community Schools in Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Eritrea, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda are the few countries in the East Africa / Horn of Africa region to have managed to keep out the COVID-19 pandemic so far.
March 17, 2020: Coronavirus-free Eritrea bans all internal, external travel
Eritrea’s Ministry of Health also issued additional guidelines to all nationals & expatriates residing in the country. They have not recorded any case yet even though neighbours Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea have one, one and six cases respectively – as at March 18. The Sudan case has resulted in death.
The guidelines basically bans all travels within and outside of the country.
1. Every person should refrain from internal & foreign travel unless this is for extremely urgent & unavoidable purposes;
2. Every person must avoid, in as much as this is possible, public gatherings;
3. Foreign travel from & to Eritrea has diminished significantly on the basis of the MoH guidelines issued last week. This will be bolstered further henceforth to fully restrict travel from, and to, Eritrea except in urgent & unavoidable circumstances
March 12, 2020: Eritrea’s coronavirus rules: Chinese, Italians, Iranians to be quarantined
Eritrea’s Health Ministry has issued guidelines relative to the recent coronavirus outbreak. The March 11 statement addresses local and international audiences in the areas of education and of entry into the Horn of Africa.
The statement says persons originating from or with recent travel history to four virus-impacted countries will be quarantined. The countries are China, Italy, South Korea and Iran.
Even though the government through the ministry has announced a quarantine, according to the Africa Disease Control Center based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Eritrea was among a handful African countries that do not have the capacity to test for the virus.
Eritrea is not the only country resorting to quarantining persons from or connected to particular countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC; announced similar measure for Germans, Italians, French and Chinese. Uganda has also announced quarantine for persons from 16 high-risk nations.
The Ministry confirmed that there was no case recorded in the country so far adding that since the country was “linked by land, air, and sea with several countries affected by the disease…. (it was) urgent and imperative for Eritrea to take precautionary measures to prevent the outbreak and spread of the disease as well as to prepare for all possible scenarios.
The closest neighbour of Eritrea to have recorded a case is Egypt, the first African country to record a case and a death. It currently has Africa’s highest infection rate with over 50 confirmed cases.
In view of these facts, the Ministry of Health issues the following guidelines:
1. Continuous sensitization campaigns will be disseminated through the various local media outlets in order to provide timely and full information to the general public. These announcements must be followed with due diligence.
2. In view of the potential gravity of the situation and for the sake of their own safety as well as the safety of the Eritrean people, the Ministry of Health urges all nationals and foreigners who may have plans to travel to, and from Eritrea, to postpone their plans on their own volition.
3. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor developments earnestly to assess occurrence, rate and extent of contagion, and other vital parameters and symptoms of the epidemic. It will accordingly issue appropriate announcements and guidelines.
4. Visitors who originate directly from, or who have transited through, China, Italy, South Korea and Iran will be quarantined.