Corona fear grips African cities

Johannesburg: Each morning at a crowded bus station east of Nairobi, Kenyans load their bags on to minibuses emblazoned with the faces of pop stars and Jesus, heading to their villages in the hope of escaping the coronavirus.

I am going back home because of corona, said Amina Barasa, her yellow headscarf standing out in the dark bus. The electronics shop where she worked had shut, she said, and she was going to stay with her family away from the city crowds.

Travelers in other African cities – from Nairobi to Kampala, Johannesburg and Rabat – are also heading to the countryside, worrying officials who say this helped spread diseases like Ebola in other outbreaks.

Traveling makes it harder to trace contacts a sick person has had and risks increasing transmission through overcrowding, said James Ayodele, spokesman for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
George Natembeya, the commissioner of Kenya’s Rift Valley Region, had a blunt message for travelers.

You are going to kill your grandmother, he told a news conference this week. You are transporting disease, and if people die, you will carry that cross for the rest of your life.

Kenya has 28 coronavirus cases. The government has severely restricted international flights, begun a dusk-til-dawn curfew, and informed buses and the public minibuses known as matatus that they can only fill half the seats to prevent overcrowding.