The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, the abbreviation for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2) has been keeping the whole world in suspense for months. With the pandemic, travel to and in Madagascar has also been severely restricted. This page shows the current state of affairs on the island.
When can you travel to Madagascar again?
Last update: 24th January 2021
From many European countries as well as the USA not at all at present, unfortunately. Madagascar’s borders have been open again since 1 October 2020, but only in part. Currently, only the island of Nosy Be in north-west Madagascar with its international airport Fascene is allowed to be served by international flights. The opening of the whole of Madagascar to international flights, originally scheduled for 29 October 2020, has been postponed until further notice. Entry into Madagascar from Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine, the United States of America, India, Brazil, Morocco, Argentina, and Iran is prohibited. It is not yet clear when this ban will be lifted.
What are the current restrictions?
Last update: 24th January 2021
The wearing of a mouth-nose cover is obligatory throughout Madagascar in streets, squares, and in any public areas, vehicles and facilities. At least one-meter distance to other people is desired.
Travelers must take a rapid coronavirus test or bring a negative test result with them on arrival at Nosy Be (maximum 48 hours old). They must also present a valid return flight ticket. Currently, only travelers who do not come from countries affected by a second wave of the pandemic are allowed to enter the country. Non-Madagascan travelers are not allowed to leave the island of Nosy Be for the time being. The port of the island is currently closed. For domestic flights, locals must currently also present a negative corona test, which must not be older than 48 hours.
Currently, no region of Madagascar is under lockdown. In the regions of Analamanga (where the capital Antananarivo is located), Diana, Sava, and Boeny, there is a curfew from 23:00 in the evening until 04:00 in the morning.
Taxis are allowed to drive, the transport of a maximum of three passengers at the same time is allowed. Taxi Be are allowed to drive within Antananarivo, Taxibrousses are only allowed to drive on the RN2 between Antananarivo and Toamasina (Tamatave), the RN7 in the direction of Toliara (Tuléar), and the RN4 in the direction of Mahajanga. The RN6 towards the Sava and Diana regions remains closed for Taxibrousse. The vehicles must be disinfected daily. Passengers must disinfect their hands when boarding. It is not allowed to enter the vehicle without a mouth and nose cover.
Meetings of more than 200 people are prohibited nationwide. The same maximum number of persons applies to restaurants, museums, art galleries, karaoke bars, bars, and cinemas. All bars must close at 10 pm. Public events (except sports competitions) are allowed as long as a minimum distance of one meter between all persons can be guaranteed.
Note about Covid Organics
According to current studies and the World Health Organization (WHO), the much-praised drink from “Covid Organics” in Madagascar is not suitable for preventing corona infection or for alleviating the course of disease with Covid-19. It is mainly based on annual mugwort (Artemisia annua), a plant originating from Eurasia, being partly medically effective. However, the exact composition of the drink has not yet been published. Since April 2020, the drink has been widely marketed and sold on Madagascar as an alleged remedy.
Development of the pandemic in Madagascar so far
Due to its isolation as an island, Madagascar was able to maintain its status as a Covid-19-free country for a relatively long time. With the rapid international spread of the virus, however, Madagascar was also forced to take measures. On March 17, 2020, it was decreed that all airports in the country would be closed for 30 days from March 20th.
The first three cases of infection were promptly confirmed on March 20, 2020, in the capital Antananarivo. The three people affected had arrived in the country on one of the last planes that were to bring Malagasy people home from other countries. All other passengers on the flight, as well as those of all flights that had taken place up to 14 days earlier, were quarantined. However, about 20 people could not be found.
A lockdown was imposed on Antananarivo from 23rd March 2020, which was extended seven times until 06th September 2020. A nationwide mask obligation was introduced. No one was allowed to leave the region in which they were located. Only vital stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies were allowed to open. Churches, schools, nightclubs, bars, museums, and restaurants were closed. Taxibrousse and Taxi Be were no longer allowed to drive. Only one person per household was allowed to move outside the apartment once a day, exclusively between 6 a.m. and 12 noon. All schools were closed. The lockdown with further restrictions was later extended to Tomasina (Tamatave) on the east coast and Fianarantsoa in the southern highlands. Punishments for people caught outside their homes without masks made headlines: They were sentenced by the dozens to sweep streets and sidewalks. On March 23, 2020, a crisis management command center was opened at the Ivato Mining Business Center. In Toamasina and Fianarantsoa, the lockdown was lifted after a few weeks. On August 26, the RN2 between Antananarivo and Toamasina was reopened for Taxibrousse, and Taxi Bes were allowed to drive within Antananarivo again.
On September 1st, 2020, domestic flights were resumed under security arrangements. On September 6, 2020, the lockdown of the regions Analamanga with the capital Antananarivo and Moramanga in the eastern highlands was lifted. The previously valid curfew from 10 p.m. in the evening until 4 a.m. was replaced by a curfew from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. limited to the regions of Analamanga, Sava, Diana, and Boeny. The ban on assembly was raised from 50 to a maximum of 100 people. Museums, art galleries, bars and cinemas, churches, and schools were allowed to reopen with restrictions. During September 2020, RN7, RN4, and RN6 were reopened for Taxibrousse traffic. Until September 30th, international flights – except for cargo and evacuation flights – were not allowed to fly to Madagascar. On October 1st, the first plane from international areas landed again on the island. It was the first time in seven months.
All regions of the country are now affected by the pandemic. However, Madagascar has very little medical care. Hospitals are mainly located in large cities and only a few can keep up with international hygiene standards. In rural areas, there is often only absolutely basic care, if at all. The country is in no way prepared for a high number of respiratory patients. At the beginning of the pandemic, the few existing hospitals were accordingly quickly overburdened. As a result, some hospitals only accepted patients with the most severe courses of disease. There was a lack of gloves, mouth-nose covers, face shields, and everyday medical supplies. Additional protective equipment for hospital staff was flown in from abroad. In August 2020, one of several new treatment centers opened at the Mahamasina football stadium in Antananarivo. Almost simultaneously, more than 1000 oxygen concentrators for hospitals arrived from abroad and another 2400 are still expected. On September 6th, 2020, the Malagasy president announced during a speech that the country had already overcome the pandemic. Three Covid19 treatment centers in Antananarivo were closed again. The national state of health emergency was lifted on 18th October 2020. At the same time, however, entry into Madagascar has been completely banned for citizens from countries undergoing a second corona wave (see list of countries in the first section of the article). Since January 2o21, the number of cases has been rising again in Madagascar.
The test capacities in Madagascar are very limited. Currently, slightly more than 850 tests per day can be performed. The official infection and death rates in Madagascar are not expected to reflect reality. Currently, only those who have already tested positive and died in hospitals are counted – which is likely to be the absolute minority of those infected. There are no autopsies outside of the hospitals of deceased people. Those who die at home and were not tested do not fall into any statistics anyway. However, Madagascar has a very young population due to the general poor medical care and high poverty. More than 60% of Madagascans are under 15 years old. Since children seem to be critically affected by the pandemic only in small numbers, it is assumed that the country has lower mortality rates for this reason as well.
The lack of foreign funds and tourism has significantly worsened the situation of national parks and protected areas in Madagascar in 2020. During the dry season, there were more slash-and-burn clearances and illegal deforestation than in previous years. People who otherwise live from tourism are currently forced to switch to agriculture and self-sufficiency. As a result, not only forest areas but also the rare animals living in them are massively threatened. Hotels are currently closed. It is unclear how many will be able to reopen after the resumption of international flights.
Protection measures in national parks and protected areas
The SARS coronavirus-2 was originally probably transmitted from bats to humans. Lemurs are genetically much more similar to humans and it is already known from several viruses that they can jump from humans to animals. As early as the late 1990s, it was proven in Africa that a chimpanzee population had been decimated by viruses that cause respiratory diseases. These viruses originated from humans who had visited the apes in the wild as part of various ecotourism programs. Something similar could happen to Madagascar’s lemurs if they came into contact with the SARS coronavirus-2.
More than 90% of Madagascar’s 108 lemur species are already threatened with extinction. A pandemic could wipe out their populations completely. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has therefore recommended restrictions that should be implemented in the vicinity of particularly endangered species of monkeys. The following measures should be observed by locals and travelers alike whenever they visit protected areas, reserves, and national parks:
- Wearing a mouth and nose cover is mandatory.
- Direct contact with lemurs, for example, letting them jump on your shoulder or feeding them, must be avoided at all costs.
- A minimum distance of 10 meters to lemurs is to be kept at best, 7 meters should under no circumstances be undercut.
- Anyone who is ill or shows even slight cold symptoms should refrain from visiting any lemurs and their immediate surroundings.
- Anyone who has had contact with people suffering from Covid-19 in the last two weeks should also refrain from visiting lemurs.
Madagascar National Parks (MNP) has decreed the following measures for all national parks on the island:
- Hands and feet must be disinfected before entering park offices.
- Entrance fees can only be paid via Mobile Money (= via Malagasy cell phones).
- Every visitor is registered by name in the Park Office.
- The wearing of a mouth and nose cover is mandatory throughout the park area. Children under 6 years of age are excluded.
- Patients at risk are not allowed to visit any National Park.
- Eating is prohibited in the entire area of all National Parks, except at designated picnic areas.
- At the park entrance, the temperature is measured with a contactless forehead thermometer.
- All bags and items carried by travelers must be disinfected before visiting the park.
- A maximum of four visitors per local guide is allowed.
- One meter distance between all persons must be maintained at all times.
- Every two hours there are “sanitary checks” (unfortunately it has not been carried out whether these are simple temperature checks or other).
- At least eight meters of distance from any animals must be maintained.
- Touching any animals or plants is expressly forbidden.
Title picture: © Achisatha, lizensiert bei AdobeStocks
Measuring temperature: © poco_bw, lizensiert bei AdobeStocks
Tippy taps: © ivanfolio, lizensiert bei AdobeStocks
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