EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Information last updated: August 13, 2020

  • Total population: 1.3 M
  • Population +65 yo: 2%
  • GDP Per Capita: 20,856 USD
  • Informal employment: Not available
  • First registered case: 13 March
  • Hospital beds: .30 (per 1,000 people)

Status

  • Stay-at-home order, closure of all non-essential shops and establishments and complete border closure ended by presidential decree on June 15th. 
  • Number of infected: 4821
  • Number of deaths: 83
  • Number of recovered: 2182


Response set up and capacity

The administrative coordination of the pandemic, including economic, labor and social decisions, are in charge of the Prime Minister of the Government, Francisco Pascual Obama Asue.The group in charge of the health response and the creation of mitigating measures for the pandemic is the “COVID 19 Response and Vigilance Policy Committee” which is led by Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue. Members of this committee also include the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Salomon Nguema Oowno; the Ministry for Interior; members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies; the leadership of Military Health of the country, and other health experts.

As of Friday, July 28th, according to a joint report between the Ministry of State for Health and the WHO, 44,356 PCR tests have been carried out, of which 4,821 have been confirmed as positive for COVID-19. The positivity rate in the country is 11,4%. The majority of testing in Equatorial Guinea has taken place in the insular region where 32,769 (77,9%) tests were delivered while in the continental region 9,512 (22,5%) tests were applied. The totality of testing indicated a mortality rate of 1.7%, the same as the average mortality rate in the entirety of the African region per WHO. Under a territorial perspective, all of the 7 provinces of the country have had confirmed cases but only two of them ( North Bioko and Litoral Province) have exhibited more than 100 cases.

Stakeholder Mapping

Entities / Organizations

The Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and its relevant ministries:
• Minister for Health and Social Welfare, in charge of and coordinates all measures taken by the government
• Ministry for Finance, Economy and Planning
• Ministry of Industry and Energy’s, etc.

The New Coronavirus Response and Vigilance Committee, managing the COVID-19 National Emergency Fund.

Additional actors

The UN team through the Response Committee (UNFPA, WHO, ILO, UNDP, UNCT; etc.) provides support to the government mainly on sensitization, WASH, Social Protection and Food security sectors.

Other committed actors:
• Baney laboratory
States (mainly USA and Turkey)
• CSOs (The Red Cross; etc.)
• Private Sector (the Constancia Mangue Foundation; Jack Ma Foundation; Huawei; etc.)
• The Bank of Central African States
• Chinese & French Embassy

Mitigating factors - What is being done?

With the first COVID-19 case diagnosed on 13 March, the Country has adopted several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact, including:

  • March 7 – The Bank of Central African States announces a set of monetary easing measures
  • March 13 – Declaration of a National State of Alarm, which includes the creation of a special emergency fund (government’s contribution of $8 million), the closure of land borders with Cameroon and Gabon and suspension of all commercial international flights. Additionally, embassies no longer issue visas and mandatory 14-day quarantine for individuals arriving from any country affected are made mandatory.
  • March 26 – The government declares a state of emergency and tightens lockdown measures.
  • March 31 – Decree declaring a State of Health Alarm (effective from 1 April for a 14-day period), which enacts the closure of land, maritime and air borders, mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from countries affected, puts in place a stay-at-home order (except for work, health & essential goods), suspends gatherings of more than 10 people, christenings, academic activities and collective transportation services, creates a Special Fund (counting with voluntary contributions) and of a Novel Coronavirus Surveillance Technical Committee within the Ministry of Health. It also mandates the closure of all non-essential shops and establishments. These measures have since been extended twice, once until April 30 and then until May 15. In addition to these, the Government expands emergency health spending, creates the Public Social Guarantees Programme, and puts in place tax and economic measures to strengthen the national system of social protection and support to SMEs.
  • April 3 – Ban on domestic flights and on movement between districts.
  • April 14 – Prime Minister Francisco Pascual Obama signs order extending the State of Alarm decree for an additional 15 days. The decree prohibits circulation of people or vehicles from one district to another until April 30th and closes business, stores and factories. The order also mandates the national electrical company SEGESA to not cut off  its services given the citizenry cannot leave their homes to pay their bills.
  • April 15 – Use of protective face masks and gloves is made mandatory in all public places.
  • April 20 – The first coronavirus death of an Equatoguinean citizen is reported by the Minister for Health, Salomón Nguema.
  • April 24 – Prime Minister Francisco Pascual Obama Asue announces that the nation has acquired 30 ventilators for artificial respiration and that it has purchased a testing machine from South Africa to boost daily tests from 200 to 500.
  • April 28 – Decree suspending the 1st of May holiday (International Workers Day) is issued.
  • April 29 – Decree enacting additional measures to strengthen the national system of social protection and extending the state of alarm until Friday, May 15th is signed. Additionally, a ministerial order issued by the Ministry of Industry and Energy reduced the payment of electricity between 25%-50% for commercial establishments, hotels, restaurants, discotheques, bars, casinos and the population in general. It also determined that all hotels that were assigned by the government to receive people for quarantine were exempted 100% from the payment of electrical services.
  • May 7 –  Prime Minister Francisco Pascual Obama Asue meets with the resident representatives for the UNFPA and WHO.
  • May 8 – Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang announces the acquisition of 200,000 COVID tests from Hong Kong and other temperature equipment.
  • May 9 – Launch of the UNDP campaign to install hand-washing taps in collaboration with the US Embassy ($75,000), the Red Cross and the Constancia Mangue Foundation.
  • May 13 –  The Response and Vigilance Policy Committee led by the Vice President decides to extend the State of Alarm ( including confinement) until May 31st.
  • May 14 – The Ministry for Education, University Teaching and Sports, with support from UNICEF, launches an educational programme via television and radio with the aim to adapt children’s school needs to the current COVID context. The initiative consists of an hour-long daily program specifically targeted at elementary level schooling.
  • May 26 – The government, through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, asks WHO’s country head of office, Dr. Triphonie Nkurunziza, to leave the country under allegations that she was falsifying COVID reports.
  • June 8 –  New shipment of sanitary material donated by the chinese government arrives in Malabo. On this day, medical experts from China that arrived on May 25th leave the country after sharing experiences and training not only with the Response and Vigilance Policy Committee but also with local governments and hospitals.
  • June 15 Equatoguinean government ends confinement measures in the country’s main cities and relaxes many of the COVID -19 restrictions. This first phase of downscaling included reopening of hotels and catering sectors. Bars, clubs and places of leisure remained closed. All passengers coming from abroad must  present a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours to gain entry. National and international flights are set to restart with certain requirements.
  • June 16 – Ministry for Health and Social Welfare, coupled with the Baney Laboratory, began mass testing for COVID -19 in the Malabo population.
  • June 19 – Domestic flights resume.
  • June 22 – New health material arrives at the Malabo International airport. The package was organized by the Ministry for Mines and funded by companies from the Petroleum Sector (Kosmos Energy, Trident Energy, Ampco, Marathon Oil, Exxon Mobil, Shell and Noble Energy). The equipment included 2 PCR machines and a robot that automates the first phase of testing. According to the government, these extra resources would result in a substantial jump in testing from 600 tests per day to 6,000 samples.
  • June 25 – (Coincidentally on his birthday) Vice president Teodoro Nguema Obiang donates, on a personal note, 4 million face masks to the equatoguienean population. On June 23rd the masks had arrived and 2 days later in a public ceremony conducted by the Vice President they were handed over to the country.
  • July 11 – The Ministry for Public Work, Housing and Town Planning delivered a new isolation pavilion
  • July 13 The Coronavirus Response and Vigilance Committee approves the use of the drug Remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 on “serious or critical [patients] in the ICU selected by the commission handling cases”.
  • July 16 – Vice Minister for Health and Social Welfare Dámaso Mitoha, accompanied by WHO incident manager Alain Poy, held a press conference to report the resumption of the publication of data on Covid 19 after 2 months of an information drought. According to the Vice Minister, the government had stopped posting data on COVID due to “the misuse of the reports issued” detailing that individuals “were using the data for other purposes”.
  • July 24 – Meeting between Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang and the Policy Committee ends with the announcement of the moving forward with phase two of downscaling measures beginning on August 1st.
  • August 1 – The government, along with the representative for WHO in the country, presented to the national media a report regarding the management and current results of the COVID-19 in Equatorial Guinea. Churches and bars are set to reopen.

In general, the government has responded to the crisis by passing some financial aid packages that at first sight appear low. Hospital preparedness is set to be bolstered by an emergency health spending package summing up 1% of the GDP.  A social assistance net has also been put in place through an initial spending budget of 0,3% of the GDP. Other measures include the delayment of tax payments for SME’s, the extension of oil exploration licenses for up to 2 years ( 95% of the country’s exports hinge on the Oil and Gas sector), and the permission to use banks’ capital conservation buffers to cover COVID-related losses.

In addition, thus far, the government continues to invest in acquiring clinical material (new equipment, masks, gloves), is receiving donations from companies (Jack Ma, Huawei) and is consulting with other governments (China, Turkey, France etc.) for additional help.

Besides these measures by the government, UNDP has formulated a broad UN response plan, budgeted at approximately $650,000.

Main sources of the historical timeline: News alerts of GardaWorld; Insights on Coronavirus from Vieira de Almeida; press articles.

Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles

Equatorial Guinea’s preparedness and response capacity to COVID-19 is extremely limited. According to the WHO preliminary country categorization list as of 16 March, it is classified as Level 2 among the least prepared countries. The Africa Center ranks Equatorial Guinea as the 11th most vulnerable out of 54 African countries, with the highest risk factors related to the public health system, government transparency, press freedom and international exposure. 

The Public Health System is weak:

    • According to World Development Indicators produced by the World Bank and analyzed by the African Center for Strategic Studies, Equatorial Guinea has one of the 10 weakest health systems in Africa. The total health spending per GDP in the country hovers around 3.1 %. The most recent estimates by WHO indicate that there are only 21 hospital beds for every 10,000 citizens in the country.
    • As of April 22, there is only one laboratory capable of testing, with a capacity of carrying out no more than 200 tests/day. However, the Government has purchased from South Africa another machine to carry out 500 additional tests per day.
    • Only two medical institutes are assigned to observe and follow up infected patients.
    • Current deficiency of respirators.
    • Compounding factors:
      • Lack of awareness among the population, lack of access to food and to sanitation services.
      • The government initially only quarantined the continental region, experts foresee multiplication of contagions across the borders.

Socio-economic challenges: 

Press and Information is scarce:

  • Information is key when communicating the details and measures needed for the mitigation of the pandemic. Unfortunately, Equatorial Guinea has ranked  as one of the African countries with less governmental transparency and lowest press freedom in the continent.  In fact,  according to RSF, on May 1 the government cancelled a morning analysis and opinion  television show on the only private channel in the country after reporters on the program had focused on military repression being used to enforce confinement measures.
  • Additionally, since the beginning of the pandemic the governmental protagonism has shifted to Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang and his father, the president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has only appeared on a couple of short and concise televised presidential addresses.

Potential actions and demands

  • According to UNDP, the contamination in Equatorial Guinea is compounded by the fact that citizens need to physically go to government agencies to pay for essential services, given the lack of digitalization. This lack has also thwarted any attempt from the Government to do cash transfers to vulnerable households. Therefore, UNDP will notably work with UNCDF on a feasibility study of digital payments to facilitate transfers between population and government.
  • As of April 30, the government imported 10,000 preventive doses and 1,500 curative doses of Covid-Organics (a traditional remedy composed of medicinal plants developed in Madagascar) to combat COVID-19. The product is administered on a trial basis to COVID patients and health personnel. This measure has been heavily criticized by several parties: 
  • The pandemic is lacking a robust scientific response according to the Scientific and Technological Research Council (CICTE), a State Body set up in August 2019 to assist the Government in all questions related to Research, Science and Technology. 
  • Before the government decided to resume data publication, there had been claims by the main opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS, given its initials in spanish) that COVID contagion data was largely underreported; that due to the large informal economy of the country State of Alarm measures were not abided by; and that access to medical services, including hospitals, was very low.  The CPDS donated 7,600 euros ( share of money that was assigned by the government to each political party to cover the ‘needs of its constituents’) to the Red Cross representatives in Equatorial Guinea.

Key resources

Contributor(s): Mateo Rojas Guerrero

The C-19 Global South Observatory is a collaboration between