Customers started behaving oddly about a week ago, visibly dejected street vendor Frank Mojapelo said. Some were wary to exchange cash. Some backed away, or refused to touch him.
Now, an unprecedented lockdown looms in South Africa over the coronavirus, with a country of 57 million people told to stay home starting Friday. Virus cases leapt again to 554 on Tuesday, the most of any country in Africa. Forty-three of the continent's 54 countries now have cases, with the total at 2,046, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The next few weeks will be tough, Mojapelo said. Though people will be allowed to leave home under "strictly controlled circumstances" to access essential items, he doubts he can continue selling boiled eggs, candy and homemade pickles out of the trunk of the car that he pulls up onto the Johannesburg sidewalks.
Small businesses expect to suffer. And that pain could grow across Africa as more countries impose tougher measures. Economies are expected to take a severe hit as borders close and trade drops.
Africa needs a $150 billion emergency financing package, Ethiopia's government said in a proposal to the G20 global forum for economic cooperation ahead of the G20 summit.
"COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries," the proposal said. It also proposes that all interest payments to government loans, and part of the debt of low-income countries, should be written off.
Rwanda and Tunisia also have announced lockdowns. In South Africa, determined shoppers are making their last runs for supplies as authorities try to reassure the public that food will not run out.
Nelson Pombo, who runs his own supermarket in Johannesburg, said he hoped to make more sales during the lockdown as people try to avoid bigger supermarkets, where social distancing has been difficult.
"People will be too scared to go to bigger shops to avoid the virus," he said. "I will also be spraying hands with sanitizers to make sure they are safe in the store." Mixed with his confidence, however, was worry that some suppliers would increase their prices because of the high demand.
Workers across South Africa will be required to stay home except for those in essential services including health care and security as well as the production and distribution of food, utilities and medical products.
A significant number of last-minute customers and workers wore face masks or gloves as businesses such as hair salons seized the chance to make more money before the lockdown pinched wallets.
Fanuel Mamova, who was accompanied by his two children after schools were shut down last week, said he only bought the basic goods — flour, toilet paper, cooking oil — which will last for only a week.
"Even if we wanted to buy more, we cannot because we are only getting paid our salaries at the end of the month," he said.
South Africa's economic hub of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, has the country's highest number of infections with 302, followed by the Western Cape, which includes the city of Cape Town, with 213.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said officials expected the number of cases to continue to rise despite the lockdown, but changes might be seen around the end of the second or third week of the lockdown.
"We must not be shocked when we see the increase," Mkhize said.
Elsewhere in Africa, the West African nation of Niger recorded its first virus-related death. Authorities said a 63-year-old man who was brought to a hospital Monday tested positive for the virus after he died Tuesday. Niger's health minister also reported three new cases, bringing the country's total to six.
South Sudan closed its borders as the country struggling to rebuild from a five-year civil war tried to prevent the virus from arriving. Some senior government officials and others were not complying with orders to be checked for fever at the airport in the capital, Juba, said the undersecretary in the health ministry, Dr. Makur Matur Koriom.
Nigeria's ban on international flights began. And Zimbabwe's president said the country was closing its borders to all but returning residents.
South Africa's coronavirus cases jumped to 402 Monday, up 128 from the day before, continuing worrying exponential growth and making it the country with the most cases in Africa.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to speak to the nation about the growing threat and many expect him to announce new restrictive measures to try to slow the spread of the disease.
More than half of South Africa's total cases are in Gauteng province, which include Johannesburg, the country's largest city with 5.7 million people, and the capital, Pretoria, with 2.4 million, according to the figures released by the government health ministry.
South Africa has overtaken Egypt to be become the African country with the highest number of cases. South Africa has not registered a death from the disease. The majority of cases are from travelers from Europe and other countries, but the number of cases that are locally transmitted is rising.
Lockdowns have begun in Africa as coronavirus cases rise above 1,000, while Nigeria on Saturday announced it is closing airports to all incoming international flights for one month in the continent's most populous country.
Rwanda said all unnecessary movements outside the home are banned for two weeks as of midnight except for essential services such as health care and shopping. The East African nation, which has 17 cases, told all public and private employees to work from home. Tunisia earlier imposed a lockdown as well.
Meanwhile, two African heads of state appeared to defy their own travel restrictions to attend another president's inauguration.
Uganda, Eritrea and Angola announced their first cases, meaning 42 of Africa's 54 countries are now affected. Congo and Ghana reported their first death; Burkina Faso reported two new ones. Uganda is closing its borders to all but cargo. Ethiopia said all arriving passengers will face mandatory quarantine as of Monday. Republic of Congo and Ghana are closing their borders. But Somalia is lifting its ban on international flights for two days so stranded citizens can come home.
Nigeria's international flight ban came a day after Africa's busiest airport, in Johannesburg, blocked foreigners from disembarking and two major airlines — Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways — announced sweeping cancellations of international flights.
Nigeria's announcement followed its first cases in the capital, Abuja.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority said "emergency and essential" flights are exempt from the ban that starts Monday. An adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Bashir Ahmad, said Nigeria also plans to suspend passenger rail services starting then.
While Angola closed air, land and sea borders this week, President Joao Lourenco attended Saturday's inauguration of Namibian President Hage Geingob. Also there was President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, which this week suspended international travel by all government employees. Namibia has three cases.
"My conscience tells me ... I did not give a bad example to Angolans," Lourenco told state television, saying his earlier decree left room for extraordinary circumstances, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa also was there. On Saturday, his country announced the first case in the capital, Harare.
Africa now has more than 1,100 cases, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Burkina Faso now has the most virus deaths of any country in sub-Saharan Africa and the most cases in West Africa with 64.
Several government ministers there have tested positive. On Friday, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore announced the country's two international airports would close for two weeks with exceptions for military and cargo.
Burkina Faso is one of Africa's most fragile states with a growing humanitarian crisis caused by attacks linked to Islamic extremists. More than 130 health centers have closed, the government and aid groups say.
According to a government response plan seen by The Associated Press, emergency teams aren't trained for a respiratory disease outbreak and don't have appropriate protective gear.
There's also insufficient screening at borders. Of Burkina Faso's 44 high-flow entry points, only 23% have coronavirus screening devices.
Jerry-Jonas Mbasha, cluster coordinator for the World Health Organization in Burkina Faso, said he was "much worried about what might happen in the next one week, two weeks from now."
Most people only experience minor flu-like symptoms from the coronavirus and recover within a few weeks, but the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear well. It can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, in some patients, particularly those with underlying health problems.
More than 275,000 cases have been confirmed globally, including over 11,000 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. At least 88,000 people have recovered.
In Nigeria, which just three weeks ago announced the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa, authorities said that first patient, a man who had traveled from Italy, was now fit to go home.
In Kenya, health officials disinfected crowded markets in the capital, Nairobi.
"It's for the sake of us, it's for the sake of the country," said Simon Kimani, public health council chairman.
More African countries closed their borders Thursday as the coronavirus' local spread threatened to turn the continent of 1.3 billion people into an alarming new front for the pandemic.
"About 10 days ago we had about five countries" with the virus, WHO's Africa chief Dr. Matshidiso Moeti told reporters. Now 34 of Africa's 54 countries have cases, with the total close to 650. It's an "extremely rapid evolution," she said. In fact, the first sub-Saharan Africa case was announced Feb. 28.
She said she did not believe that large numbers of infected people are going undetected in Africa. However, she did acknowledge a challenge in the shortage of testing kits. Forty-three countries have testing capability, up from two when the outbreak began.
The WHO regional chief also expressed concern about travel restrictions and their impact on the ability to deliver needed resources. The WHO is considering humanitarian corridors, Moeti said.
But many African nations were taking their cue from China and other countries by sharply restricting travel.
On Thursday, Senegal closed its airspace. Angola and Cameroon shut air, land and sea borders. Rwanda blocked all commercial flights for a month. The island nation of Mauritius closed its border after announcing its first case.
Some people in other countries clamored for their governments to block flights, too.
"To stop this virus once and for all is to stop any flight that will land to (Nairobi's international airport). Let them stop," said Uhuru Evans, a bus driver in the capital of Kenya, East Africa's economic hub.
He offered hand sanitizer to passengers as they boarded.
"Since it was announced that it has reached Kenya, I am refusing to take customers to the airport," said Peter Muteru, a taxi driver. "It has reached a point where I carry only people I know."
Some African nations also began cracking down on alcohol sales to help prevent the coronavirus' spread.
South Africa — where the number of cases jumped to 150 from 116 — said all places that sell alcohol for drinking on site must close from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. And they must accommodate less than 50 people at a time or close immediately.
Authorities have raised concerns about crowded drinking spots in the country with the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has barred attendance at bars and clubs, calling limiting "merry-making" a new front in virus prevention.
"Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves," he said.
While some worried people pushed for testing, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong, warned that simply being tested shouldn't end anyone's concerns.
"If you are tested today, it doesn't mean you aren't infected tomorrow," he told reporters.
Meanwhile, a day after the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia issued a security alert about reports of attacks on foreigners accused of having the virus, that country's health minister appealed for calm.
"COVID-19 is not related to any country or nationality," Lia Tadesse said. "It is a test against all humanity."
A cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew was in quarantine Saturday in the southern city of Luxor, after 12 people tested positive for the new coronavirus.
A Taiwanese-American tourist who had previously been on the same ship tested positive when she returned to Taiwan. The World Health Organization informed Egyptian authorities, who tested everyone currently on the ship.
Health authorities found a dozen of the ship's Egyptian crew members had contracted the fast-spreading virus, but did not show symptoms, according to a statement Friday.
The statement said the 12 will be transferred to isolation in a hospital on Egypt's north coast. The passengers — who include Americans, French and other nationalities — and the crew will remain quarantined on the ship awaiting further test results.
Egyptian authorities have been tight-lipped about the virus outbreak, previously reporting only three confirmed cases. That's even as the wider Mideast now has over 6,000 confirmed cases.
In hard-hit Iran, the Health Ministry said Saturday that 21 more people had died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 145. More than 1,000 infections were also confirmed overnight, bringing the total to 5,823 cases nationwide.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 16,000 cases were hospitalized across the country, with some still being tested or monitored to see if they had contracted the virus. The capital of Tehran had the most infections, with more than 1,500 cases, followed by the Shiite holy city of Qom with 668 and the northern Mazandaran province with 606 cases.
Among the dead was Fatemeh Rahabar, a 55-year-old newly elected lawmaker who passed away in Tehran, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday. She'd been elected to the next parliament that begins work in May. Earlier this week, Iranian lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri told state television that 23 members in the current parliament had the coronavirus, and urged all lawmakers to avoid the public.
The new cases in Egypt came just days after three people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. state of Texas. Officials in the city of Houston said Thursday that they believe the three were exposed to the virus while on a trip to Egypt in late February.
It was not immediately clear if the Texan tourists were on the same boat where the cluster occurred, how long the passengers on the ship had been quarantined, nor where exactly the initial Taiwanese tourist had contracted the virus.
The new and fast-spreading coronavirus could deliver a major blow to Egypt's tourism industry. The government has been struggling for years to revive the vital sector following the country's 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
Other countries around the world have closed schools and universities, while also cancelling major art, sporting and business events.
Egypt does not appear to have taken any of these types of measures, and Friday's discovery of the 12 cases coincided with the opening day of the Luxor African Film Festival.
"It's still unclear how many people came in contact with the group in the infected ship," said a senior police officer in Luxor. Cruise ships on the Nile often dock side by side, with passengers getting on and off by walking through several other vessels.
"No one knows the extent of this," the officer added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to reporters.
A young man who works on cruise ships said many have left their work after the incident, fearing infection.
The country's national air carrier, Egypt Air, has suspended direct flights to China since late January. The virus, which originated in China, has infected more than 100,000 people globally.
The previous two cases in Egypt were a Chinese and a Canadian national, then an Egyptian who was in Serbia and had stayed for 12 hours in France before arriving in Cairo. Egyptian authorities said Friday that tests on over 2,500 people came back negative for the virus.
Elsewhere in the region, the United Arab Emirates reported 15 additional coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 45.
The UAE is a major tourist destination and most of its residents are foreigners. The emirate of Dubai is also home to the world's busiest airport for international travel. Authorities have urged residents and citizens not to take unnecessary trips abroad, and to expect screenings and possible quarantines upon return.
To stymie the spread of the virus, the UAE has suspended schools, nurseries and universities for a month. It has also stopped flights to Iran and limited flights to China.
The UAE's Health Ministry said 13 of the new cases had recently arrived from abroad, and they include three Emirati citizens, two Saudis, two Ethiopians and two Iranians, as well as a person each from Thailand, China, Morocco and India. The statement gave no further details on where the travelers had come, when they had arrived to the UAE and which ports of entry they had come in from.
The other two cases, an Emirati and an Egyptian, were diagnosed after being monitored in connection with a cycling tour in the country that was halted a week ago.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, announced there would be no spectators for sports competitions and games starting Saturday in order to combat the spread of the virus. The kingdom has five confirmed cases, but has taken unprecedented measures against the virus' spread, including halting all pilgrimage in Mecca, Islam's holiest site.
Tehran's mosques authority banned any collective prayer and religious ceremonies in Tehran's mosques starting Saturday. They'll still remain open individual prayers.