CAPE TOWN- A new law permits fines and imprisonment for up to two years for any Ethiopian citizen who breaks Covid-19 restrictions including not wearing a mask in public, shaking hands, seating more than three people at a table or not keeping six feet apart.
The attorney general’s office said in a statement on its Facebook page on Wednesday that citizens have become lax after the state of emergency was lifted in September.
Health Minister Lia Tadesse tweeted on Thursday: “Now it is as if Covid is no longer there, the public is not taking care. This will cause a possible increase in the spread of the disease and might be a threat to the nation.”
The health ministry has recorded 91 693 Covid-19 cases, 1 396 deaths and 45 260 recoveries so far.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, declared a state of emergency in April to curb the spread of the pandemic. The country saw it's peak toward the end of August, however, due to limited resources it is estimated that less than 2% of deaths are formally recorded.
Last week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that the country had raised its health budget by 46% this year after the Covid-19 crisis exposed the need for more equipment, facilities and personnel.
Most African countries have not seen the huge wave of infections and deaths that have been seen across Europe and the Americas.
Director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, addressing the Financial Times Africa Summit earlier this month, said: “One of the few encouraging trends is in Africa, which has been less affected than other regions and is now the only region where cases are not increasing. The current downward trend is cause for optimism. However, just as with the rest of the world, Africa must remain vigilant with this virus.”
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