Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Mauritania enact quarantine restrictions on Kiffa May 19. Nationwide restrictions and social-distancing measures remain.

This alert affects Mauritania

This alert began 20 May 2020 16:49 GMT and is scheduled to expire 29 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least late May
  • Impact: Severe travel disruptions

Summary
The government of Mauritania enacted quarantine restrictions on the town of Kiffa May 19 until further notice, following an increase in the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the area. Travel to and from the town will be restricted as part of new measures. Health workers will also be deployed to advise residents on measures to curb the spread of the disease.

The new measure follows the easing of some COVID-19-related restrictions and nationwide curfew times to accommodate the observance of Ramadan May 7. Curfew times are now 2300-0600. Emergency and essential services will continue to remain operational for the duration of the curfew. Authorities have also authorized public religious ceremonies and the opening of markets and restaurants nationwide. Ramadan observance will end May 23, and measures will likely be reviewed then. The suspension of international travel, including flights, is ongoing as of May 20. Mauritania's borders remain closed, and freight services are subject to increased inspections. Maritime services likely face similar conditions. Travel into the capital Nouakchott is also restricted.

Sporadic clashes are possible if any group attempts to break the curfew; security forces will likely act quickly to control such incidents. Individuals in contact with possible COVID-19 cases face a 21-day mandatory quarantine.

Background and Analysis
The new measures adopted by the government highlights existing concerns over the spread of the virus if authorities begin to ease restrictions too early. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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