AFRICA ERITREA COVID19
Eritrea on Wednesday ordered citizens to remain in their homes for 21 days, becoming the latest African country to impose a lockdown in a bid to contain the coronavirus.
"All citizens are compelled to stay at home" during the three-week period beginning Thursday, read a statement late Wednesday by a national COVID-19 taskforce.
The notoriously repressive Horn of Africa nation has reported 18 cases of COVID-19 so far, including one person who contracted the disease in Eritrea "without any history of foreign travel", the statement said.
Since announcing its first case on March 21, the government has already banned commercial flights, closed schools and halted public transport.
But these steps have been "vexingly inadequate", the taskforce said, urging "much more stringent measures".
Dozens of countries across the continent have imposed restrictions, from nighttime curfews to total shutdowns.
Like other countries, Eritrea is empowering security forces to enforce its restrictions and threatening "punitive legal measures" against those who flout them.
But Wednesday's statement spelled out a number of exceptions, including for those working in "major productive and service sectors" like manufacturing, food processing and construction.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and banks will continue to operate during the day.
Citizens are allowed to seek food and medical treatment provided that no more than two people from a household go out at any given time.
The statement acknowledged that the rules would inflict "considerable hardships on the daily lives of citizens".