Africa’s largest city Lagos was deserted today after Nigeria locked down its economic hub in the continent’s latest effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Businesses were closed, markets abandoned and streets empty as the usually chaotic megacity of 20 million shuddered to a halt on the first full day of a two-week shutdown.
Police in protective equipment manned checkpoints, trucks carrying non-essential items were turned back and youths were spotted playing football on a usually traffic-clogged highway.
The lockdown in Nigeria – which also covers the capital Abuja – is one of Africa’s most ambitious efforts at social distancing, after 135 cases and two deaths were confirmed in the country.
Deserted: A section of the Ikorodu expressway in Lagos was completely empty today after Nigeria’s government shut down the megacity of 20million people in order to halt the spread of coronavirus
Lonely: One person walks down the side of the Ibadan expressway in Lagos today, which was left deserted by motorists after Africa’s largest city went into quarantine
Barrier: An officer from the Ogun State Road Safety Command obstructs a truck from driving into Lagos today, as lorries carrying non-essential goods were turned away at checkpoints
Enforcing the stay-at-home order in the overcrowded slums of Lagos will be a mammoth challenge as millions of people depend on their daily earnings to survive.
‘It is like putting people in prison,’ minibus taxi driver Mutiu Adisa said. ‘I don’t know how people can survive for two weeks without working to make money.’
Officials insist the draconian measures are needed urgently to ward off an explosion in infections that could easily overwhelm the weak health system in Africa’s most populous nation.
‘To reduce the number of people with coronavirus, we know they need to stop movement,’ 60-year-old engineer Ogun Nubi Victor said.
‘But there in no money for the citizens, people are just sitting at home, with nothing to eat.’
In an attempt to ease the pain, Lagos state authorities have pledged to supply basic food rations to some 200,000 of the city’s neediest households.
A pedestrian bridge near a bus stop is deserted today as people in Lagos remained indoors to stop an epidemic which experts fear could be particularly damaging in Africa
An empty road and pavement next to a bus stop in Lagos today, where businesses and markets have been shut in order to stop the coronavirus bringing misery to the city of 20million
Police officers block an expressway at the border between Lagos and the neighbouring state of Ogun today, with cars and lorries held up at the checkpoint
Across all of Africa, countries have recorded more than 5,300 cases and 170 deaths, according to a tally compiled by AFP.
Tanzania on Tuesday became the latest nation to record its first fatality from the novel coronavirus.
The numbers have lagged behind those of other continents, and as of Monday, there were still six countries out of 54 in Africa – South Sudan, Burundi, Sao Tome and Principe, Malawi, Lesotho and the Comoros – that had yet to detect a single case.
But experts have repeatedly warned of Africa’s vulnerability, describing its many conflicts, poor sanitation, packed urban slums and under-equipped hospitals as sources of potential catastrophe. Even developed countries have seen their health systems overwhelmed by the crisis.
Dozens of countries across the continent have imposed restrictions from night-time curfews to total shutdowns to try to halt the disease.
The police watchdog in South Africa, on lockdown since last week, said yesterday it was investigating an officer for allegedly killing a man who defied the regulations.
The regional powerhouse, which has the highest numbers of confirmed infections on the continent, will start mass door-to-door screening and testing for infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa said yesterday.
Police officers mount a roadblock with a combination of a vehicle and a long stick today, stopping a lorry from passing by the checkpoint in Nigeria’s largest city
This fuel tanker was allowed through a checkpoint, but vehicles carrying non-essential goods were blocked by Nigerian police on Tuesday
A police officer on a motorcycle rides past a bus stop in Lagos, which has been locked down after Nigeria recorded 135 infections and two deaths from the coronavirus
This was the scene yesterday, when a queue of cars were waiting to depart the capital Abuja to neighbouring states after the lockdown as announced