Sudan begins easing coronavirus lockdown measures

Restrictions compounded Sudan's economic crisis, characterised by galloping inflation and foreign currency shortages.

    Sudan's health ministry has reported almost 10,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 620 fatalities [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]
    Sudan's health ministry has reported almost 10,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 620 fatalities [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]

    Sudan began loosening lockdown measures on Wednesday in and around the capital Khartoum 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.

    In April, authorities 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, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    They also imposed a curfew between 3pm and 6am local time (13:00 to 04:00 GMT), while allowing small grocery stores and pharmacies to remain open for limited hours.

    Sudan's official news agency SUNA quoted government spokesperson Faisal Saleh as saying that the night-time curfew will remain in place in Khartoum state, but from 6pm to 5am (16:00 GMT to 03:00 GMT), as of Wednesday.

    Sudan's health ministry has reported almost 10,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 620 fatalities.

    The confinement measures have compounded Sudan's economic crisis, characterised 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 labourer in Khartoum.

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

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

    The International Monetary Fund said Sudan's economy contracted by 2.5 percent in 2019 and predicted that it would shrink by 8 percent in 2020 because of the pandemic.

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

    SOURCE: AFP news agency