South Sudan could experience spike in the number of COVID-19 infections which may overwhelm its fragile healthcare system in the wake of easing restrictive measures put in place since March 25, experts warned on Friday.
President Salva Kiir and his deputies on Thursday relaxed precautionary restrictions on COVID-19 despite rising infections.
The government extended its dusk till dawn curfew starting from 10.00 p.m. until 6.00 a.m., a departure from the previous 7.00 p.m. time. It also ordered shops and stores to reopen including restaurants and bars.
Juba also announced resumption of regional flights and road transport which experts have said could have serious health consequences.
Anthony Garang, deputy head of South Sudan Doctors Union (SSDU) said that the decision to ease restrictions could plunge South Sudan into health crisis, as the already rising trend in local infections could surge further.
“We have a fragile health care system and also have inadequate health workforce, and these can be easily overwhelmed if we experience any COVID-19 surge in the country,” Garang said.
“Therefore, other than relaxing these measures the ministry of health is supposed to speed up the training of health care workers at the state and county level to ensure that those people are deployed to the health facilities designated to respond to COVID-19 cases, and also to ensure that equipment that are needed are deployed to the states,” he added.
“The majority of our people, who do not have access to radios and TV, are not much aware of the infection, prevention and control measures and the threats posed by the novel coronavirus. Most of the COVID-19 cases confirmed in the last one month are from local transmission. The SSDU therefore, recommends that the lockdown remains in place and further reinforced until transmission or number of new cases begins dropping,” the doctors union said in a joint statement.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently revealed, that South Sudan’s novel coronavirus infection is increasing on an irregular trend, and that the government and health partners are considering plans of equipping the country with more testing kits and beginning community testing.
Abraham Kuol Nyuon, dean of school of social and economic studies at University of Juba, said the government decision was necessitated due to the dire humanitarian situation with an estimated 6.5 million people facing risk of food insecurity this year alone.
“I think this decision was taken as result of the current situation within the country, because you have seen into it now that the government does not have the ability to be able to help the general public. They have seen that the lockdown is causing a lot of crisis, especially the looming hunger which is supposed to affect the bigger population compared to the novel coronavirus,” he said.
He said easing restrictions will allow economic activities to resume which in turn relieves people from suffering.
Meanwhile, Garang cautioned the government to listen to technical expertise from experts before taking such drastic measures with huge consequences on the health of the population.
“The government should consider technical expertise from the public health emergency experts and from the infectious disease position, who are actually in the field fighting the virus and may try to get studies to inform the decision,” said Garang. Enditem