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Curfews are a safer plan than total lockdowns to slow Covid-19’s spread in informal economies (Quartz)

April 11, 2020

From the op-ed:

"On April 6, there were reports of a clash between youthful traders at a temporary market and police enforcing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in Kaduna, Nigeria. It left five dead with multiple sustaining gunshot wounds. This follows movement ban related shooting deaths in Rwandaone in South Africathe death of a teenager in Kenya and two sustaining gunshot wounds in Uganda.

These clashes will only increase and escalate if the choice remains for daily wage earners to stay at home and face inevitable starvation or venture out and face the wrath of security services. The response to the Covid-19 pandemic that has become standard in high and middle-income countries is, in its current form, unfeasible, impractical, and arguably counterproductive in low income countries, especially across sub-Saharan Africa.

These difficulties, however, do not make these social distancing measures any less necessary.  We need these public health measures. Our challenge is to adapt them to informal economies which lack a comprehensive safety net to support those shut in.

Cash-driven informal sectors are a huge share of the economy of most developing countries, particularly in Africa where between 30%  to 90% of all non-agricultural jobs are informal. Millions of Africans are unable to survive without some form of daily trade and don’t have the advantages of bank savings, credit cards and online commerce to be able to stay indoors or “social distance” for extended periods. Our choices, however, need not be so stark or irreconcilable. The recommendations below, which are neither exhaustive nor universally applicable, attempt to adapt social distancing to Africa’s informal economies. It is possible this disease will be with us for up to a year, and thus must be met with public policy that can be sustainably implemented over the long haul.

While the crisis is a test for underfunded health systems, it will also be an exacting examination of any state’s governance capabilities and social cohesion. It cannot be overemphasized that any country attempting to implement these adjustments must ensure eternal vigilance since relaxation could potentially lead to carelessness, causing infections to explode…”

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