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Djibouti unlocks its economy despite surge of COVID-19 positive cases

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

Djibouti has joined a growing list of nations which have reopened their economies after months of lockdown, a top official said on Saturday, despite the fact that the Horn of Africa nation is battling escalating COVID-19 cases.

Mohamoud Omar Youssouf, the country's Foreign Affairs minister, said citizens would get back to their work from Sunday [today], noting that "there is no other remaining option, people need to make a living by going back to work".

While insisting that the process to restore normalcy was inevitable, the minister, however, added that social distancing and wearing of face masks in public places will be mandatory for all, regardless of their social status.

As of Saturday, the tiny strategic Horn of Africa nation had registered 1189 positive cases of the disease, the highest within the entire East Africa region. Of these cases, 834 have recovered while three people have since succumbed, the health department said.

Despite the high rate of infections, recovery rate and fatalities in Djibouti are better than neighboring countries, which have struggled to contain the virus according to the statistics. For instance, Somalia has registered 997 cases, 44 deaths, and only 106 recoveries.

And the minister insisted that the country did not record any severe form of the virus, adding that "except one fatality because of preexisting conditions but tracing and testing and treating contacts helped significantly slow down the spread".

However, he continued: "New epicenters of the contamination could emerge in the capital city, that’s why the task force on civid19 in Djibouti will continue to meet on a daily basis in order to follow closely the evolution of the pandemic."

The county now joins the United States, China, Italy, and Germany, which have started springing back to life despite high rates of infections. To date, 4.02 million have been infected, 1.38 million recovered while 279,000 have sadly died.

China, which was the first to register COVID-19 cases, started reopening its economy in April. However, several countries have petitioned Beijing, accusing it of "manufacturing" the virus for "economic competition".

Just after the virus started wreaking havoc at the Horn of Africa, President Ismail Omar Guelleh's administration closed down its borders besides suspending both domestic and international flights.

And despite the decision to open the economy, Omar added: "The borders will remain closed except for humanitarian personnel who will follow an agreed protocol of prevention to avoid reintroducing a new form of the virus."

Public transportation and places of worship such as mosques and churches will have to follow very strict measures of protection such as wearing masks and observing social distancing, the minister said in a series of tweets.

A fortnight ago, the United States military declared a health emergency in Djibouti following the rising cases of COVID-19. However, it was not okay to clear whether any of its soldiers had been infected at that time.

The US has close to 7,000 servicemen in Africa and it uses Djibouti as the main Forward Operating Base. In a statement, Stephen Townsend, the commander AFRICOM, said the decision was meant to "protect our soldiers from COVID-19 threat".

Opening the economy in Djibouti will also boast transportation of imports to neighbouring Ethiopia, a landlocked nation which mainly depends on the seaport of Djibouti for running of its multi-million dollar economy.


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