Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency in the country to help curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Home to almost 110 million people, Ethiopia has recorded 55 coronavirus cases and two deaths to date.
“Because the coronavirus pandemic is getting worse, the Ethiopian government has decided to declare a state of emergency under Article 93 of the constitution,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I call upon everybody to stand in line with government bodies and others that are trying to overcome this problem,” he added, warning of “grave legal measures” against anyone who undermines the fight against the pandemic.
It was not immediately clear how the state of emergency would affect day-to-day life in Ethiopia.
Authorities have already taken a series of measures to stem the spread of the virus, including closing schools, banning public gatherings and requiring most employees to work from home.
The government has so far refrained from imposing a lockdown similar to those in effect elsewhere in the region, including in Rwanda, Uganda and Mauritius.
William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group, said, “There is a quite a lot of uncertainty about the extent to which the coronavirus may have spread so far in Ethiopia.”
“Not too much testing has been done, but the government has steadily increased that, accrediting other laboratories to do so,” he told Al Jazeera from the capital, Addis Ababa. “But certainly, there’s not been a huge amount of testing that’s going on – maybe that’s partly why there is not a huge amount of infections.”