President Patrice Talon announced Sunday that Benin could not enforce public confinement because it lacks the “means of rich countries” who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Rich countries are putting up huge amounts of money and some are even resorting to barely disguised monetary solutions, or printing notes to prevent what would otherwise be unavoidable socio-economic chaos,” he said in a televised address.
“Benin (…) does not have such means,” Talon said. “If we take measures which starve everybody, they will quickly end up being defied and violated.”
The president did announce from Monday a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around eight major urban areas, including the business capital Cotonou where public transport will be halted.
But questions have been asked about the lack of protective measures in the West African country where officially just six cases of novel coronavirus have been recorded.
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A student demonstration at Cotonou’s Abomey-Calvi university last week calling for classes to be halted ended with one protester dead. Schools, churches and mosques were ordered to close on March 22-23.
Neighbouring Togo has reported 28 cases and Ghana 141. Both have imposed confinement or restrictions on movement.
Across Africa 4,267 cases have been declared with 134 deaths, although testing has been limited in many countries where large numbers of people live in poverty.