Published On: Sun, Mar 29th, 2020

Coronavirus measures in Africa escalate to violence as police, military enforce lockdowns


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As coronavirus cases in Africa rose above 4,000 on Saturday, several countries have taken escalating measures to enforce lockdowns and curfews in the hopes of preventing the disease from spreading.

Tear gas, rubber bullets and a military raid were some of the reported actions authorities have taken amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed one of the strictest lockdown orders in Africa on Friday, authorizing the government to call upon the army to enforce it. Officials said a total of 55 people were arrested for violating the orders on the first day.

South African National Defense Forces patrol the Men's Hostel in the densely populated Alexandra township east of Johannesburg on Saturdayto enforce a strict lockdown in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

South African National Defense Forces patrol the Men’s Hostel in the densely populated Alexandra township east of Johannesburg on Saturdayto enforce a strict lockdown in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

The military raided a large workers’ hostel in the Alexandra township where some residents had defied the three-week lockdown in an apparent show of force on Saturday.

Police screamed at homeless people in downtown Johannesburg, going after some with batons. Police swept up 300 homeless and took them to a shelter, Reuters reported.

SOUTH AFRICANS IGNORE STAY-AT-HOME ORDER IMPOSED TO TACKLE CORONAVIRUS

Some citizens reported the police used rubber bullets on a crowd of nearly 300 shoppers gathered outside a Shoprite supermarket, in Yeoville, a neighborhood in Johannesburg’s central business district, the Guardian reported.

Soldiers interact with resident while on patrol in Mannenburg, Cape Town, South Africa on Saturday. (AP Photo)

Soldiers interact with resident while on patrol in Mannenburg, Cape Town, South Africa on Saturday. (AP Photo)

South Africa leads the continent with more than 1,100 positive coronavirus cases. Officials reported the first death on Saturday.

Elsewhere, new lockdown measures have also been tough to enforce.

Human rights groups have criticized Zimbabwe for deadly crackdowns, while police in Rwanda have denied that two civilians shot dead Monday were killed for defying the new measures there. They said the men attacked an officer after being stopped.

Police fired tear gas at a crowd of ferry commuters in Kenya, where there are 38 cases, ahead of the 7 p.m. curfew. Human rights groups called the incident a “brutal” and “excessive use of police force.”

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While the outbreak is still in its early stages in Africa, crowded conditions in poor areas could accelerate the virus’ spread and overwhelm struggling public health systems, health experts have said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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