Coronavirus in Sudan: Govt opts for possibility of a gradual lockdown
After consultations with Sudan’s Higher Committee for Health Emergencies on Thursday, the Council of Ministers decided to adopt a step-by-step approach concerning an entire lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Additional measures are needed to compensate the loss of income of the many day workers in the country.
Information Minister Feisal Mohamed Saleh said in a press conference yesterday that the country is not yet prepared for a full lockdown.
“The Council of Ministers decided to implement the isolation measures in stages by gradually banning services and movement, in line with statistics on the number of confirmed coronavirus patients,” he reported.
“When we notice that the disease is spreading and more precautionary measures are needed, the curfew can be expanded. It is possible we shall reach the stage of a complete ban.”
The Sudanese government imposed a Health Emergency on March 17, closing Sudan’s land and air borders. A week later, a curfew was imposed, from 8 pm to 6 am. Schools and markets were closed, gatherings prohibited, and public transport to the states was banned.
A complete lockdown will require specific measures for people who depend on daily work. We should compensate their loss of income in case of a complete lockdown. - Information Minister Feisal Mohamed Saleh
Distribution of food
It its meeting yesterday, the Council of Ministers discussed proposals regarding food distribution channels via cooperative societies, or through distribution centres selling basic commodities for reduced prices for the many people working in the informal sector.
A complete lockdown will require specific measures for people who depend on daily work, such as craftsmen, washerwomen, food and tea vendors, or people doing odd jobs at the markets and in industrial areas, Saleh explained. “We should compensate their loss of income in case of a complete lockdown.”
The ministers have formed two committees to assess the proposals. The committees are to present their recommendations on the next ministerial emergency meeting on Sunday.
The Information Minister said that the council will discuss the pricing of basic consumer goods and the distribution channels on Sunday, in addition to a plan concerning compensation for day workers in case a complete lockdown is required. “We have to decide on ways of compensation and selection of the most vulnerable people.”
Various experts have described the measures taken by the government in March to limit the spread of Covid-19 as good but incomplete.
“The required action to prevent the spread of corona now is to seriously consider a total curfew in the entire country for two weeks,” Hafiz Ismail, head of the NGO Justice Africa Sudan told Radio Dabanga in end March. “At the same time, the government should deal with the impact of such a curfew on people's livelihoods. The huge informal sector consists of day labourers and itinerant traders. They will need support and provision of resources during this period.”
The Communist Party of Sudan also pointed to the need to reduce the impact of the isolation measures on the most vulnerable people by supporting them directly. “The many Sudanese working in the informal sector do not have the luxury to stay at home, as they need to secure their food each day.”
Dr Majda Mustafa, Head of the Economics Department of the International University of Sudan, has called on the government to mitigate the effects of coronavirus measures in the country, by directing banks to provide soft finance to small- and medium-sized businesses, and postpone any instalments due.
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