Sudanese health authorities say a total lockdown is not out of the question after a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases across the country over the past four weeks.
Acting Health Minister Osma Abdurrahim, who recently recovered from COVID-19, is calling on all citizens to wear face masks and follow all other preventative measures to avoid contracting or transmitting the disease.
Surge of infections called 'terrifying'
Abdurrahim described the higher infection rate as “terrifying.”
“Three weeks ago, we registered 200 cases. Two weeks ago the number increased to 500 and this week the number has jumped to 700 positive cases,” Addurrahaim told reporters at a Thursday evening news conference in Khartoum.
He said nearly a hundred deaths were recorded in isolation centers this past month.
Aburrahim went into self-isolation when he tested positive for COVID-19 10 days ago.
Finance official tests positive
Late last week, Sudanese acting finance minister Hiba Ahmed also tested positive. Ahmed said she is still carrying out most of her officer duties from home.
The health ministry will continue to monitor the situation and is considering calling for a total lockdown, according to Abdurrahim.
“We shall be following the health situation more closely and up to this moment there is no decision of a total lockdown, but this will depend on the epidemic curve. We will keep updating the public regularly,” said Abdurrahim.
At the same briefing, undersecretary of the ministry of education Tamadur Al Tarifi announced the government is postponing the re-opening of most schools for another two weeks in accordance with directives from health authorities.
At the end of that period, Al Tarifi said, health officials will decide whether schools should be reopened.
“These 15 days will be closely monitored by the ministry of health. If they decide that schools should not open, we don’t have much to do rather than following their directives,” said Al Tarifi, adding that the government hoped a new academic season would be “begin soon” and that it would be safe for students.
Schools set to reopen
Schools across Sudan were shut down in March. They were expected to reopen this coming Sunday.
Primary and secondary school candidates resumed classes early last month on the condition that students wear face masks in school, practice social distancing and observe all other health directives. Al Tarifi said “congested classrooms” should either be divided in half or schools should operate on two shifts.
He said the health ministry would conduct regular visits to schools to ensure they follow “all health directives.”