Police sprayed tear gas at a group of people aboard a Kenyan shuttle as they began the first day of a curfew in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic. Elsewhere, officers were recorded on the phone while beating people with clubs.
Measures to curb the virus turned violent in parts of Africa when countries imposed curfews and quarantines to isolate major cities. Health experts point out that the spread of COVID-19, even at an early stage, resembles the arc seen in Europe, increasing anxiety worldwide. Cases in Africa were expected to top 4,000 by Saturday night.
Most cases of COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which disappear within a few weeks. But others, especially older people or those with previous illnesses, can manifest with a more serious picture, including pneumonia or death. Coronavirus is highly contagious and healthy people without symptoms can spread it.
The abuses committed by the authorities when implementing the new measures caused immediate concern.
Minutes after the three-week quarantine in South Africa began, police officers shouted at homeless people in central Johannesburg and chased some of them with a club in hand. Citizens reported that the police fired rubber bullets. 50 people have been arrested in the country with the highest number of cases in Africa, with more than 1,000.
In Rwanda, the first sub-Saharan country to impose containment measures, police denied that two civilians were shot dead on Monday for failing to obey the new measures, arguing that the men were the ones who attacked an agent who asked them to stop.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, police have come under fire from human rights groups for carrying out lethal operations as the country prepares to start a three-week curfew on Monday. The handful of cases of the virus in the country are already threatening to overwhelm one of the world’s weakest health systems.
And in Kenya, outrage at the actions of the police quickly spread.
“We were appalled at the excessive use of police force” before the curfew began on Friday night, Amnesty International Kenya and 19 other human rights groups said in a statement Saturday. “We continue to receive testimonies from victims, witnesses and video images that show the police cheerfully attacking the population in other parts of the country.”
Tear gas caused hundreds of people trying to reach a ferry in the port city of Mombasa before the curfew to cover their faces and vomit, with watery eyes, increasing the chances of the virus spreading, groups stressed. in favor of human rights. Even some health sector workers reported having been threatened by the police when trying to provide service after the curfew that started at 7:00 in the afternoon.
Police actions are unacceptable and “brutal,” the Justice and Peace Commission of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced in a separate statement.
“I call on our people to make it very unnecessary to get involved with the police by staying home,” said Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya’s secretary of health. “I also emphasize to the police that the population must be treated humanely.” The country registers 38 cases of the virus.