The Ethiopian Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) announced on Sunday, April 19, that preparations are continuing for the closure of the Hintsats Eritrean refugee camp (Tigray state) despite concerns regarding the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. According to ARRA, the camp is currently home to some 26,000 people, who will be relocated to the Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps in Tigray or possibly other locations in Ethiopia. Specific reasons for the closure remain unclear as the government claims that the motive for the Hintsats closure is to ensure effective use of available resources elsewhere. However, some international observers claim that the Eritrean government is to blame as they believe the camp is a focal point of political opposition due to its proximity to their border. A state of emergency remains in place in Ethiopia as of Wednesday, April 8. It was not immediately clear what new measures, if any, will accompany the state of emergency.
On Monday, March 30, Tigray, Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region imposed a ban on public transportation to contain the spread of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, April 14, it remains unknown how long the ban will remain in effect.
Border closures and the prohibition of all non-essential inbound and outbound traffic and travel remains in place. Schools, bars, nightclubs, and other large gatherings are also banned and security forces have been deployed to enforce the regulations. All passengers arriving in Ethiopia are subject a to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at their own expense in selected hotels in Addis Ababa. Individuals transiting through Ethiopia with valid onward tickets are exempt from quarantine.
To date, there have been 105 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, including three associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.