Things changed very quickly in Belgium and now we’re in containment. Going out is forbidden except for food, or sport, if the distances between people are respected. Professional activities can go on if the safety of employees is guaranteed. Schools and universities are closed, religious services are no longer allowed, but churches remain open.

Benin is not in panic. There have only been 2 cases. (The first case was a Burkinabé who had just returned from Belgium.) The government has decided 12 measures: closure of borders, restriction of entry visas, quarantine, suspension of missions outside the country, cancellation of sport and religious events, (communion is given in the hand, no more sharing peace) pilgrimage to Mecca, providing masks, limitation of funerals, respect of distances during cult (not always easy), protection of employees in contact with the public. In the African sub-region, schools and universities are closed. We are ready for the worst, and we pray to God that it will not happen. But in Africa there has been a much greater anticipation than in Europe. We have had time to see the danger coming.

How is the population reacting? In Africa conviviality is important, it is difficult to isolate oneself. A new way of life is needed. It creates a strange situation, no longer greeting your brother, you wonder where the world is going?. We fear a lot for women who work in the big crowdy markets. People are inventing special drinks for protection. In Belgium too, people don’t know how to say hello anymore, but humour takes its place by using old-fashioned ways, like curtsey for example. This creates a new kind of relationship with people, quite interesting. The formula “take care of yourself” is now used a lot. People keep the distance, but they don’t feel suspicious to one another.

In Europe it took people a long time to become aware, they thought it would never happen in their country and they trusted science… Economically we are in a crisis similar to 2008, but the reactions of the financial community are different. When everyone can be affected, it changes the way people look at the situation. Perhaps new perspectives are emerging?

In conclusion, this is a serious situation but an opportunity, hoping that humans may learn from it. Our main enemy is fear, which can destroy more than the virus itself.