Eritreans on Friday began the first day of a nationwide lockdown in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
The Red Sea nation imposed a nationwide lockdown after Asmara reported five new cases of the virus putting the total number of infected individuals to six.
Eritrean authorities declared a ban on all public transport and restricted travel between towns and cities.
“All public transport vehicles - buses, minibuses and taxis – in all the cities will stop services from 6am Friday, March 27th,” said the Ministry of Information in a statement.
It said “With the exception of transport vehicles that may be granted special permit by the competent authority in urgent circumstances, all public transport services from one region to another, or from one city to another, will likewise be stopped effective from Friday, 27 March 2020.”
The ministry said use of trucks for public transport is illicit and defiance to orders is punishable by law.
Authorities have also ordered the closure of all educational institutions across the country.
“All institutions of learning - from kindergarten to colleges – will be closed as of March 27, 2020.”
The ministry said the new lockdown measures will remain effective until further notice.
On Monday, Eritrea announced that social gatherings of more than 10 people are strictly banned, whether it is a cultural, social, or religious gathering.
Two days later, the country confirmed three more Covid-19 patients and on that same day announced it was suspending all commercial flights effective immediately.
“Commercial passenger flights to and from Eritrea will not be allowed from midnight today (March 25, 2020). The ban will remain effective for two weeks until further review,” Yemane Gebremeskel, Minister for Information, said.
Eritrea’s first confirmed case was a 39 years old Eritrean national who arrived in the country from Norway.
So far, all the six passengers who have tested positive for Covid-19 are Eritrean nationals who flew back home from different countries.
“All the patients are receiving necessary treatment and their condition remains satisfactory” said Eritrea’s Ministry of Health.
“The passengers who were on the same flight with the patients and all those who came in physical contact with them have been quarantined” it added.
Eritrea’s new measure is among the most stringent in Africa. Few other African nations have also taken similar measures as continent sees tide on coronavirus cases.