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Rwanda and Lesotho extend lockdown, Ghana lifts it

Lesotho, despite not yet recording any COVID-19 cases, has joined Rwanda in extending their lockdowns, while Ghana has become the first African country to lift it.

Rwanda has extended its COVID-19 lockdown for another 11 days to 30 April. As part of the measures to stop the spread of the pandemic, the country has been on lockdown since 21 March. Under the regulations, people are prevented from leaving their homes unless it is for essential services.

The New Times reports that businesses across the country remain closed except for those dealing in essential commodities like fuel, food items and medicine. Rwanda's borders are also closed except for goods and cargo as well as returning citizens and legal residents who will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated locations.

Lesotho has extended its three-week lockdown by another 14 days despite having yet to detect a single case of coronavirus. "During this time, government will procure specialised equipment such as oxygen ventilators, patient monitors and protective clothing for health facilities," said Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in a televised address. A report on the News24 site notes that the authorities first announced a 24-day lockdown late last month over fears that the virus could cross the border from South Africa.

Meanwhile, Ghana has become the first country in Africa to lift a coronavirus lockdown. President Nana Akufo-Addo confirmed an end to a three-week restriction on movement around Accra and Kumasi. A report on the News24 site notes that he said increased testing, aggressive contact tracing and expanded isolation centres allowed him to halt measures that hit the country's poor hard.

“This decision to restrict movement has occasioned a number of severe difficulties for all of us across the country, especially for the poor and vulnerable,” he said. Borders remain closed and measures shuttering schools and limiting public gatherings are still in force. The country has seen the number of confirmed infections rise to 1,042.

Ghana is using delivery drones from US-based startup Zipline to enable it to test people more quickly outside major cities for the novel coronavirus, reports Reuters Health. Zipline operated its first coronavirus test flight on 1 April and will now fly samples collected from more than 1,000 health facilities in rural areas to laboratories in the capital Accra and to Kumasi, the second-largest city.

“Using contactless drone delivery to transport COVID-19 test samples will allow the government to respond to the pandemic and help save lives more quickly,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo is quoted in the report as saying.

As of 15 April, the Ghana Health Service said it had tested 57,000 coronavirus samples.

Zipline, which already operates fleets of drones in Ghana and Rwanda to deliver blood, vaccines and other essential medical equipment to rural areas, is working with the Ministry of Health to enable the coronavirus sample flights.

[link url="https://allafrica.com/stories/202004200427.html"]Full News Times report[/link]

[link url="https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/lesotho-extends-coronavirus-lockdown-by-two-weeks-20200421"]Full report on the News24 site[/link]

[link url="https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/joy-or-fear-mixed-feelings-as-ghana-ends-virus-lockdown-20200420"]Full report on the News24 site[/link]

[link url="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-ghana-drones/ghana-turns-to-drones-to-enable-faster-coronavirus-testing-idUSKBN2220H7"]Full Reuters Health report[/link]

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