Several countries have implemented sweeping changes to how they operate, including total lockdowns, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under such lockdowns, all factories, markets, shops and places of worship have been closed to the public. Public transport remains suspended, construction works stopped with citizens told to stay home and practise social distancing – all to curb the virus’ spread.
While infection data has shown that the virus spread is slowed under lockdown, opponents hold that without a proper plan, it could be a terrible idea.
Kenya started enforcing dusk to dawn curfew just days after the country recorded its first coronavirus-related death.
The curfew was announced on March 25 for an unspecified period.
It, however, got off on the wrong footing, with police officers across the country reportedly using excessive force, beating and tear-gassing crowds of people on their way home from work.
As of yesterday, 59 people in Kenya had tested positive to the virus with one death.
Dozens of other African nations have imposed total shutdowns as the infectious disease continues to ravage lives.
Countries that have gone into some form of lockdown so far include India, France, Italy, Spain, some states in the US and China, South Africa, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mauritius and Lagos City in Nigeria.
But what does a lockdown mean?
For people with abusive partners, a total lockdown means captivity.
Under normal conditions, victims of domestic abuse can seek help outside the home or at work.
They often do this by staying with friends when things get too difficult. But now, many are stuck in the same space with their abusers. The window for seeking help or getting a distraction has narrowed.
Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia has said women are likely to suffer gender-based violence in this period where Kenya has enforced a 7pm to 5am curfew.
“As we observe the Government guidelines on how to contain the spread of Covid-19, we remain alive to the fact that women are relatively at a higher risk of suffering gender-based violence. We would like to assure you of Government support during this period,” she stated.
A situation that could worsen in the event of a total lockdown.
The CS urged Kenyans to report cases of abuse and seek medical attention.
Hungry and homeless
Under a lockdown, well-off citizens will isolate indoors, work from home and get groceries and foodstuff delivered to their doorsteps.
This is not the case of the poor and the majority of the middle-class individuals.
In India for example, the poor labourers amass in the streets, hungry and homeless are the worst affected by the nationwide lockdown.
Even though the coronavirus toll in India appears to be low — the government reported 1,590 cases and 45 deaths in a country of 1.3 billion as of April 1 — Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed one of the world’s strictest and biggest lockdowns, ordering all residents to stay in their homes for 21 days as of March 25, with a few exceptions for essential workers in food shops or law enforcement.
The lockdown has now left millions of workers unemployed and with no savings.
The workers serve as day labourers, construction workers or domestic help in India’s megacities.
Those who lived in factory dormitories, that are now shut, have nowhere to go.
They are vulnerable to starvation and infection.
No outdoor activities
For South Africa, the 21-day lockdown that began on March 26 has forced all citizens to stay indoors.
Soldiers and police are said to be patrolling the streets to enforce the lockdown.
South Africans may not leave their homes except to procure essential goods and services. This excludes the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol. It also excludes outdoor exercise.
But many homes in South Africa do not have the luxury of even running water.
According to a 2018 report, only 46.3 per cent of households had access to piped water.
The first few days of lockdown have been marked with violence as police officers unleashed water cannons and rubber bullets on South Africa’s poorest residents in slums and townships.
The Kenyan High Commission in Pretoria urged Kenyans living in South Africa to adjust to the guidelines issued by the South African government.
At home, small and middle-size businesses are already bearing the brunt of the curfew imposed in Kenya, a situation that is likely to worsen in the event of a lockdown.
The government has banned all non-essential services and public gatherings during the dusk to dawn curfew.
Pubs, restaurants and leisure centres across the country now remain closed amid the spiraling Covid-19 crisis.
In Italy, most citizens are following the government advice to stay at home, leaving streets and squares deserted in the country of 60 million people.
Reuters reported that the daily output in the euro zone’s third-largest economy is some 15 per cent below its normal levels, according to economist Lorenzo Codogno.
Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri warned of a “significant fall” in gross domestic product this year.
Behind the figures are thousands of businesses that risk closure as their vital daily liquidity dries up because of the epidemic.
In the event of a total lockdown in Kenya, it will mean consumers will have to stock up foodstuff in bulk.
The result will be prices of the staple foodstuff rising sharply due to the increased demand of these basic commodities.
Several countries have locked up their borders and imports and exports have been disrupted.
The difficulties in moving produce within countries and across borders, coupled with frenzied buying, could exacerbate the impact of the pandemic on the global food market.
The coronavirus outbreak is already affecting food security following the disruption in labour availability and the supply chain.
“We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stated on its website.
The FAO said disruptions can be expected in April and May.