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Africa locks down, aid deliveries threatened

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — More than half of Africa’s 54 countries have closed their land, air and sea borders to fight the spread of the coronavirus, authorities said, but fears are growing that the restrictions are delaying deliveries of critical aid.

African nations have closed airports and locked down some of the continent’s largest cities out of caution, but that compounds the serious problem of shortages of health and other items. The continent now has more than 7,000 confirmed virus cases on top of sprawling crises related to hunger, locusts, conflict and more.

“If the chaos caused by this pandemic is allowed to curtail humanitarian assistance, the results will be catastrophic,” the medical charity Doctors Without Borders warned.

Aid organizations are now in the extraordinary situation of negotiating for humanitarian corridors in peaceful regions after at least 32 countries closed their borders, according to Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Some nations have made exceptions for cargo, humanitarian aid or emergency flights.

But at least 21 low-income and middle-income countries, most of them in Africa, are already seeing shortages of vaccines because of border closures or flight disruptions, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, said. The U.N. children’s agency earlier noted “major disruptions” of vaccine shipments by air, notably to West Africa, as many originate or transship in Europe, and some countries have refused to accept shipments from nations with virus outbreaks.

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