Covid-19 mutes Labour Day across Africa

APA-Banjul (The Gambia)

There has been an unmistakably different feel to this year's International Labour Day across Africa where lockdowns against the spread of the deadly coronavirus meant there were muted celebrations throughout the continent.

From South Africa to Algeria, Central African Republic to The Gambia, this years May Day events across have been painfully overshadowed by the pandemic.

From empty stadia and thoroughfares where Labour Day marches were usually held, fire-and-brimstone speeches made and resolutions declared for the the continent's teeming mass of disadvantaged workforce, May 1st this year has been devoid of these spectacles as nations scramble to deal with the outbreak.  

There was a different feel to May Day 2020.

The hollowed green of Gambia's Independence stadium which used to be the focal point of daylong events around the day in the recent past, was empty and silent as workers from all walks of life stayed away, apparently tucked in homes, some of them dreading the worst from the pandemic and yet hoping for the best. 

On the eve of May Day, the country registered its twelfth case of the disease out of over 300 people test for the virus so far.  

The Africa Argument which runs a tracker giving a blow-by-blow account of the continent's coronavirus cases puts the number at 39, 087 with 1, 642 deaths and over 12, 000 recoveries. 

The Coromos Island is the latest African country to register a case of the virus, meaning that save Lesotho, almost all of Africa's 54 countries have now seen at least one infection. 

Thus as May Day approached, more and more governments across the continent have been drawn toward shoring up their health systems which are already struggling to tackle the current rate of infections.

With more than 20 countries on the continent observing various degrees of lockdowns in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak, May Day 2020 was bound to be a casualty of the war against the coronavirus.

In South Africa, one of Africa's two largest economies, there was little sign of May Day as soldiers patrolled the streets to enforced a lockdown.

Squares and public places where events were usually held around Labour Day looked like ghost towns despite people being allowed to walk about for the first time in many weeks.

In Kenya where the celebrations of May were muted, President Uhuru Kenyatta concentrated his speech on efforts by his government to tackle corruption in relations to funds raised to deal with the coronavirus.

He said it was good to look beyond the pandemic since it would not last forever.

“We should also focus on the future since corona will not be with us  forever. I was surprised when some criticized me for exporting flowers abroad...the flower industry employs very many people. The moment corona is over they will remember us for standing with them in their time of need” he said.

Economic fallout from Covid-19

But the prospects for workers especially those in the informal sectors around the world looks bleak if a warning by the International Labour Organisation is anything to go by.

With layoffs, furloughs and stay-at-homes, up to 28 millions of jobs will be lost in the aftermath of the pandemic, it warns.

The ILO's COVID-19 and the world of work says this would be worse than previously thought due to the drop in working hours during the second quarter of 2020 as the pandemic continues.



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