KHARTOUM – After a steep jump in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, Sudan’s transitional government has imposed a nationwide lockdown to try to stop the spread of virus.
Health officials blame the rising number of confirmed cases on citizens who refuse to follow preventative directives issued by authorities. Sudan’s High-Level Task Force for COVID-19 now says anyone who violates the directives will be punished.
In the past 24 hours, the government reported 67 new cases, raising the total to 442 confirmed cases, according to Professor Sadiq Tawor, a member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, who leads the task force.
Tawor says the death toll stands at 31 after three more people died Thursday. Thirty-nine patients have fully recovered. Thirteen of Sudan’s 18 states have confirmed at least one case of coronavirus.
The government had no other option but to impose a total lockdown, according to Tawor.
“This measure is taken as one of our solid responsibility toward the safety of our citizens, to protect them from the carelessness of opportunists, who are trying to gain and benefit despite the ongoing pandemic,” Tawor told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
Last week, the government banned all travel from Khartoum to other parts of the country and vice versa, but drivers continue to smuggle people from Khartoum to other states, according to Health Minister Akram Ali Altom.
Tawor said such behavior has contributed to the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
“The majority of infection cases came through smuggling of individuals through some neighboring countries, those who travel from Khartoum to other states. Some got it through social transmissions, which are a clear violation of the health directives,” Tawor told VOA.
From now on, Tawor said people who violate the travel ban could be sent to jail.
“Punishments under the health emergency act include imprisonment, quarantine, fine, and confiscation of assets, such as cars which are used to smuggle travelers between states,” Tawor told VOA.
Osman Hadadi, a resident of Khartoum’s east Sahafa neighborhood, supports the lockdown. He thinks the government should go a step further by punishing people who violate restrictions on social gatherings.
“Our traditions in Sudan have contributed a lot to the spread of the virus. The social life of our people is so much connected and there are some practices that they need to drop. Otherwise, this virus will kill a lot of our citizens,” Hadadi told South Sudan in Focus.
Luka Lawrence Ndenge, a South Sudanese who resides in Khartoum’s Eastern Nile district, also supports the nationwide lockdown but says it could hurt certain groups of people.
“It’s a wise decision but it has an impact on the nation itself especially on those who depend on daily work to run their lives. It will be difficult for them to run their lives because they depend on daily income,” Ndenge said.
Minister Ali Altom said Wednesday Sudan would run out of medical supplies within a few weeks to fight the pandemic unless it received more supplies from international aid agencies.