Ivorians ready to rock as virus measures lifted

Ivory Coast on Friday lifted many of its coronavirus containment measures, except in economic capital Abidjan which has the vast majority of the country’s cases, as jubilant locals feted the return of the country’s vibrant nightlife.

The West African nation acted swiftly in enacting restrictions against the pandemic more than a month and a half ago, and it has so far only recorded 20 deaths.

“No positive case has been detected in the interior of the country since April 21,” President Alassane Ouattara said Thursday, announcing the lifting of all restrictions, with curfews ended and schools, restaurants, bars and concert venues reopened.

Locals were exultant on Friday, saying the lockdown had impoverished them. 

“The curfew and the restrictions can cause more deaths than the virus itself,” said Seriba Kone in the northern town of Korhogo.

Assana Kone, who works in a nightclub in Korhogo, agreed.

“It has been difficult to feed and take care of my daughter. I had no salary and no tips,” she said.

However the coastal city of Abidjan, which has a population of five million, will remain isolated from the rest of the country, with measures staying in place there until at least May 15.

Ouattara said the city has registered 98 percent of the country’s 1,571 infections.

But Abidjan’s curfew will be shortened from 9am-5am to 11pm-4am during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The country’s borders will also remain closed until further notice.

“The curfew has really hit us hard,” said Tenemaga Coulibaly, who runs a bar-cum-restaurant in Korhogo, adding: “Business really rocks at night”.

Venance Yao, 24, a nightclub habitue in Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second city, was ecstatic.

“At last we won’t have to return home at 9 pm to sleep like sheep. The party’s starting for us now!” he added.

Farmers and miners were also relieved. Ivory Coast is the world’s top cocoa producer and also has large gold deposits.

“We hope to resume work. Staying at home has been very hard,” said a gold miner working for Australian firm Perseus Mining.