COVID-19 in Africa: The nuances of social distancing and handwashing

  • Akwi W Asombang Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
  • Olaronke Akintola-Ogunremi Mercy Hospital, Department of Pathology
  • Kondwelani John Mateyo University Teaching Hospital, Department of Medicine
  • Julie Mwabe The Executive office of The President
  • Joel Kpodo Society for Nurses in Endoscopy and Minimally Invasive Surgery (SNEMIS)
  • Mary Ani-Amponsah Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of Ghana
  • Filipe J G Monteiro Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Department of Medicine
  • Nancy Kasono Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital
  • Margaret-Mary Wilson United Healthcare Global
Keywords: COVID-19, Handwashing, Social distancing


The implementation of interventions to minimize the Corona Virus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Africa has been flurry and increasingly complicated in nature. This milieu engenders and heightens vulnerabilities of critical masses living in socially- compromised situations and economically constrained communities in the current pandemic. The increasing spread of COVID-19 has necessitated enforcement of frequent hand washing, social distancing and lockdown measures as a recommended global strategy to curb community-based spread of the disease. However, pre-existing conditions in Africa impede capacity to observe hand hygiene, social distancing and lockdown. Although past epidemics in Africa created foundations for planning for future occurrences, the enormity of the current COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed capacity to observe globally recommended interventions. The rising trends in morbidity and mortality has gained attention from community members, stakeholders, regulatory bodies and governments, however, implementation of hand hygiene practices and mobility restrictions has not been in tandem with sustainable approaches that assure compliance and resource availability to limit cross-transmission. The aim of our article is to unveil current challenges with handwashing and social distancing in Africa and propose innovative solutions to prevent community-based COVID-19 transmission. The issues pertaining to Africa are not only related to the magnitude of the problem, but the unique nature of African contexts and the paucity of documented evidence that impede a re-envisioning of interventions that promote community health. Therefore, gaining an understanding of the inherent nuances is important to implementing globally recommended interventions.


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How to Cite
Asombang, A., Akintola-Ogunremi, O., Mateyo, K., Mwabe, J., Kpodo, J., Ani-Amponsah, M., Monteiro, F. J. G., Kasono, N., & Wilson, M.-M. (2020). COVID-19 in Africa: The nuances of social distancing and handwashing. Medical Journal of Zambia, 47(3), 165 - 169. Retrieved from