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African COVID-19 lockdowns will split public opinion

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Subject

African COVID-19-related lockdowns.

Significance

There has been considerable civil society resistance to restrictive COVID-19-related lockdowns in Africa on both poverty and human rights grounds. Academics and journalists have also questioned their sustainability given the limited savings of most households and the reliance of many communities on the informal sector. However, both public opinion and civil society itself are deeply divided. Governments that acted quickly and firmly appear to have gained higher approval ratings for their handling of the pandemic, while organisations that represent vulnerable communities have welcomed restrictive measures intended to prevent the virus' spread.

Impacts

  • Governments failing to control COVID-19's spread risk being branded health risks by neighbours who have imposed stricter measures.
  • Popular support for restrictive measures is likely to remain high so long as governments can demonstrate they are working.
  • Clashing and problematic statements by ministers on restrictions could be an ongoing challenge for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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