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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Sudan eases lockdown measures as economic crisis escalates

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

AFP , Thursday 9 Jul 2020
Sudan
A general view shows Sudanese people and traffic along a street in Khartoum, Sudan June 11, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)
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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.

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.

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, 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.

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

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.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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