South Africa's virus cases jump; Mali, Guinea-Bissau get 1st

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A man running on top of a sewage pipe at Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, a day after it was announced that South Africa will go into a nationwide lockdown for 21 days from Thursday to fight the spread of the new coronavirus. The highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus can cause mild symptoms, but for some it can cause severe illness including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe's public hospital doctors and nurses went on strike Wednesday over a lack of protective gear as the coronavirus begins to spread in a country whose health system has almost collapsed. It's the latest blow to a nation where some patients' families are asked to provide such basics as gloves and clean water.

“Right now we are exposed and no one seems to care,” said Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association president, Tawanda Zvakada. The president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Enock Dongo, confirmed nurses' participation. Zimbabwe has three cases of COVID-19 and recorded its first death this week.

Neighboring South Africa's coronavirus cases jumped to 709, its health minister said, as the country with Africa's most cases prepared to go into lockdown Friday. Dog-walking is barred, police said, along with running and alcohol sales. Borders are closed to human traffic.

South Africa's police minister, Bheki Cele, said two people with the coronavirus have been charged with attempted murder because they didn't obey orders to isolate themselves.

Cases across Africa are now well above 2,400. Forty-six of the continent's 54 countries have the virus with Mali, Libya and Guinea-Bissau the latest to confirm their first.

In western Kenya, riot police fired tear gas after traders resisted attempts to close a crowded market in Kisumu to help curb the virus' spread. The country has 25 cases and on Wednesday imposed a curfew, as did South Sudan.

“Our government keeps telling us to stay indoors yet we don't have money to eat,” said one trader in Kisumu, Joash Okoth Abute. “There are only a few people with money and many without money, so I am pleading with the government to ensure all Kenyans are secure. Help us.”

As cases rose to 68 in Ghana, some people debated imposing a lockdown. “What are we going to eat?” asked Ali Seidu, a driver in the capital, Accra. Civil servant Abraham Ofei disagreed: "If they do not do it early, by the time they decide it will be too late.”