Information last updated: May 18, 2020
- Level of confinement and until when: Total lockdown in Libreville since 12th of April; partial lockdown in the rest of the country since the 28th of April.
- Cases treated in hospitals: 91% (May 7th, 2020).
- The geographical distribution of the cases is very unequal, with more than 90% reported in the Greater Libreville area.
Response set up and capacity
The operational medical response is organized by the Steering Committee for the Coronavirus Outbreak Monitoring and Response Plan (Comité de Pilotage, “Copil”), chaired by the Prime Minister, Head of Government, assisted by a Technical Committee composed of public health and military health physicians and a Scientific Committee composed of scientists, including the local WHO representative.
Health and economic measures are announced by the President of the Republic during speeches to the Nation or in government press releases (published on https://infocovid.ga/). The spokesperson of the Steering Committee gives daily briefings on the evolution of the epidemic.
Gabon used to have a relatively high number of hospitals bed per inhabitant, with 6.3 beds per 1000 inhabitants in 2010, largely above the regional average. However, more recent estimates point to decrease to 2.5 beds per 1000 inhabitants in 2017 or even only .30 per 1000 inhabitants. Initially, three hospitals were dedicated Covid-19 treatment centers. As of May 11th, 6 hospitals are reference centers, with a total of 158 beds available for Covid-19 patients.
Entities / Organizations
• Presidency of the Republic
• Prime minister
• Ministry of Health
• Steering Committee for the Coronavirus Epidemic Watch and Response Plan (including the strategic and the technical commissions), assisted by a scientific committee.
• World Health Organization
• French Development Agency
• UN agencies in Gabon
• Jack Ma Foundation
• United Bank For Africa
• Chinese government
• International Monetary Fund
• World Bank
Mitigating factors - What is being done?
Measures announced by the Steering Committee:
- March: temperature measurement at borders; setting up of isolation zones; toll-free hotline with medical advice; information campaign on barrier measures; restrictions to international travel and quarantine measures; cancellation of public events (cultural, sport competition, etc.); closure of nurseries, schools, universities and vocational training centers; closure of bars and nightclubs then restaurants and places of worships; prohibition of public gatherings (limited to 50 then 30 people); suspension of Court hearings; cancellation of visits to jails and hospitals; partial lockdown with local travel prohibited between 7.30 pm and 6am.
- April: Free of charge testing in 60 public testing centers; lockdown of the greater Libreville area; requisition of all healthcare workers; compulsory use of mask in public spaces; local travel prohibition extended from 6pm to 6am.
- Setting up of the Steering Committee and of the independent scientific committee.
- Creation of a fund to support the efforts, equipment of screening laboratories (initially only 1 laboratory was equipped to do the tests).
- State of Health Emergency is declared;.
- Personal presidential fund to grant healthcare access to most vulnerable population.
Economic and social support measures:
- Financial support for electricity and water bills (respectively 4 billion CFA per month for electricity and 2 billion for water, targeted at the most vulnerable).
- Suspension of rent collection for income-deprived tenants, with financial compensations for vulnerable owners.
- Free public transports.
- Temporary unemployment scheme (covering between 50 and 70% of the gross monthly salary, or up to 100% for income between 80 and 150 thousand CFA francs).
- Creation of Citizen’s fund to collect contribution.
- Creation of a Food Bank (5 billion CFA dotation).
- Corporate tax reduction of 50%.
- Cash flow support to businesses (250 billion FCFA emergency financing fund and moratorium debt reimbursement to banks).
- Tax rebates to businesses that will preserve jobs, tax exemption of all exceptional bonuses granted to employees doing their work during the confinement period.
- Centralization of the financial data regarding the State’s cash situation.
Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles
Risk of recession and increase in public debt: Gabon’s economy and tax income in particular rely mainly on the oil sector (38.5% of Budget revenue in 2019). The sharp decrease in oil price from $60 to $30 per barrel will have a strong impact on the country’s economy, increase the State’s debt and weaken its capacity to invest, as well as to fund social programs. According to the IMF, the country’s adjusted growth in 2020 could be negative and reach -1.2% of GDP. Notably, the State’s financial situation and ability to invest has already been strongly hit by low oil prices in the last years, in particular since 2014. In parallel, the tourism sector, while not yet strongly developed, had a strong potential for growth and was one of the identified sources for revenue diversification in the government’s strategy. This strategy will also be obviously impacted by the pandemic.
Structural weaknesses affecting the effectiveness of measures: Despite its high oil revenues, Gabon has a high poverty rate (the poverty rate stood at 33.7% in 2017) and an informal sector that would represent between 40 and 50% of GDP (according to the French Treasury). Informality represents a barrier to the success of economic measures such as replacement income for temporary laid-off employees. Combined with high poverty, the large informal sector will also hinder the success of confinement, as vulnerable people in the informal economy might be forced to brave rules to earn a living and pay medical expenses. The announcement by the President of the Republic of the creation of a personal fund to cover the medical expenses of the most vulnerable is intended to alleviate some of these difficulties.
Potential actions and demands
Economic recovery: To enable the country to recover quickly, the IMF granted a $147 million facility through the Rapid Financing Instrument on April 9, 2020. The World Bank also prepared a Strategic Preparedness and Response Project amounting to 9 million USD. The Bank of Central African States, whose members are largely affected by the drop in oil prices, also announced a series of support measures, including the lowering of specific interest rates and the creation of a 90 billion CFA investment facility. The Bank aims at sustaining the fixed parity with the Euro.
Medicines: There has been a large interest in the development of traditional medicines against Covid-19, including the development in Madagascar of a cure based on local plants that has reportedly been sold to several African countries but not yet to Gabon. The WHO recognized the potential interest of traditional remedies, but encouraged the use of those only after robust scientific tests.
Contributor(s): Eloi Mauratille.