Social distancing policies in 22 African countries during the COVID-19 pandemic: a desk review
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Social distancing policies in 22 African countries during the COVID-19 pandemic: a desk review

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  • Alternative Title:
    Pan Afr Med J
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    on January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. As of October 5, 2020, there were over 34.8 million reported cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and more than 1 million reported deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), globally. Non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as social distancing policies, hand hygiene, and mask use, are key public health measures to control COVID-19. In response to, or in some cases even before, the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections were reported in their countries, policy makers across Africa issued various social distancing policies.


    we describe social distancing policies issued from March 1 to April 24, 2020 in 22 Anglophone countries of sub-Saharan Africa. We reviewed policies identified online.


    though all 22 countries closed schools and banned gatherings, they took a variety of approaches to sizes of gatherings banned and to stay-at-home orders, with 13 countries issuing national stay-at-home orders, four issuing subnational stay-at-home orders, and five not issuing stay-at-home orders. Enforcement provisions varied by country, as did funeral and health care exceptions.


    movement restrictions, business restrictions, and school closures can have substantial negative impacts on economies, education, nutrition, and routine health care. Yet easing or lifting of COVID-19 social distancing policies can lead to increased transmission. Our review documents a wide variety of policy alternatives used in Africa and can inform future adjustments as countries ease, lift, and reapply measures in response to their evolving epidemics.

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