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Lockdown Effect: 31 Canadians die of neglect in home, poorest Africans hunger for food

At least 31 Canadians were found dead in a Montreal nursing home over the weekend as the effects of an international lockdown intensify.

Only five of the dead tested positive for Covid-19, but many are thought to have been unfed and wearing soiled clothing because a number of caregivers had deserted the Residence Herron nursing home.

Dehydration is also thought to have been a significant factor in the deaths, where 66 of the remaining 99 patients have since tested positive for the virus.

The news follows a similar incident in Spain last month, where Defence Minister Margarita Robles confirmed that an undisclosed number of nursing home residents had been found dead and abandoned by army personnel disinfecting the buildings.

Other countries such as India and South Africa are reportedly experiencing social unrest as economies grind to a halt, and with it poorer citizen’s ability to feed their families. Whilst many Indian labourers are fleeing to the countryside in search of food, townships in South Africa are said to be suffering from chronic food shortages too.

Rioting and looting has hit a significant number of areas, with shops and cafes a particular target. South African police however have been accused of using disproportionate force during the lockdown, with multiple reports of assaults on people violating the restrictions.

Whilst South Africa is now four weeks into a 35-day lockdown, nearby Zimbabwe has chosen a 21-day lockdown, despite only having 8 confirmed cases of the virus and one death. The World Food Programme estimates that 60% of the 14.4 million people there will experience food shortages this year, with many of the informal, poorest workers facing immediate hardship.

Despite food sales being listed as an essential service, police there have reportedly raided a vegetable market in Mutare, with fleeing vendors abandoning their supplies which were later burnt by the officers.

Meanwhile a Malawi court has blocked an attempted lockdown by the government this week, after hearing an appeal by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition. Although the decision only amounted to a temporary 7-day injunction, the much-feared consequences of a proposed 21-day lockdown on one of the poorest countries in the world have been allayed for now.

In west Africa however, 18 Nigerians have been killed by security forces implementing a national lockdown, a death toll higher than those so far killed by the virus in the country. Although the lockdown has been extended until April 27, large crowds have been gathering at markets in Lagos in search of precious supplies.

The question facing leaders in these countries and more is whether the cure is really worse than the disease.

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