Sudan eases coronavirus lockdown measures as economic crisis escalates

A file photo of Sudanese residents wait for buses on a street in Khartoum, Sudan. (Reuters)

Sudan began loosening lockdown measures Wednesday in and around the capital after three months of tight restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The usual bustle of pedestrians and car traffic returned to Khartoum’s streets, with shops and restaurants reopening.

Authorities had in April halted government services and shuttered local markets and restaurants in Khartoum province – severely restricting daily life in the capital and its twin city Omdurman – to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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They also imposed a curfew between the hours of 3pm and 6am (1300 GMT to 0400 GMT), while allowing small grocery stores and pharmacies to remain open for limited hours.

The official news agency SUNA quoted government spokesman Faisal Saleh as saying that the night-time curfew will remain in place in Khartoum state, but starting from the later time of 6pm to 5am (1600 GMT to 0300 GMT), as of Wednesday.

Saleh also said that government services will gradually resume from Sunday July 19, according to SUNA.

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Coronavirus: Sudan extends COVID-19 lockdown in Khartoum state

Sudan’s health ministry has so far tallied nearly 10,000 COVID-19 cases including more than 620 fatalities.

The confinement measures have compounded Sudan’s economic crisis, characterized by galloping inflation and foreign currency shortages.

On Wednesday, many in local markets complained of dramatic rises in the prices of basic foodstuffs.

“Living conditions have become extremely hard and were made worse by the long days of the lockdown,” said Abdelrahman Mohamed, a daily laborer in Khartoum.

Salma Othman, a Sudanese housewife, likewise complained that prices had soared in recent weeks.

Residents of the Sudanese capital Khartoum queue in front of a bakery, on April 9, 2020. (AFP)

Residents of the Sudanese capital Khartoum queue in front of a bakery, on April 9, 2020. (AFP)

Sudan’s economy lurched from crisis to crisis under the later years of president Omar al-Bashir’s rule.

He was ousted by the military in April 2019 amid mass protests against his three decade rule.

The International Monetary Fund says Sudan’s economy contracted by 2.5 percent in 2019 and predicts that it will shrink by eight percent in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Last month, international donors pledged $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan’s transitional authorities, who took power in August 2019.

On June 30, tens of thousands took to the streets once more in Khartoum and elsewhere demanding that authorities enact long-awaited economic reforms.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 08 July 2020 KSA 21:37 - GMT 18:37
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