ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
As the world observers social distancing to keep the COVID-19 pandemic away, people in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa are beating the virus by performing exercises in groups on the streets.
In spite of the partial COVID-19 related restrictions, people of all walks of life in the capital wake up early and flex their muscles.
An early dawn exercise has become a fad in the rugged, landlocked African country as a remedy to the virus. The people are sighted doing jogging, sit-ups, and all kinds of movements in groups.
In a bid to get people off the streets, famous athletes are shown in a TV commercial, sipping a non-alcoholic beer and advising people to join them in a virtual exercise during the lockdown period.
“I have been doing daily exercises for quite many years, even before COVID-19 days. I have never seen this new phenomenon, with so many people crowding streets to perform exercises,” Bereket Yeshitila, a young man in his early thirties told Anadolu Agency.
The area where Bereket does his daily exercise is in a woody and hilly part of Addis Ababa. People in groups of 10 and more are all over the place busy with doing pushups.
A distance away is a group of people doing all sorts of aerobics in a circle, with a woman standing in the middle of the circle leading them.
“Sport is ideal to keep the infection away. It alerts your body system and keeps you healthy mentally. It should be a culture. The government should support it as more and more people are coming out,” she tells the group.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the young lady said that sports also gives a person confidence and energy.
She said while not many people have access to the gym even in normal times, the group exercises outdoors is the answer to include many people in sports activities.
Spike in cases
While exercise is good to shape up the human body and its systems, the violation of social distancing has raised concern.
Messele Mola, who was also doing exercise on the street said violation of social distancing norms was a cause of concern, pointing out to the spike in the rate of new infections.
Over the past month, Ethiopia on average reports 1000 plus new cases every day. So far, the country has reported 42,143 cases with 692 deaths and 15,262 recoveries.
Ethiopia is known internationally for its middle-distance and long-distance runners. But the pandemic has hit the sports sector as well.
“The COVID-19 pandemic placed an enormous hurdle in the way of the athletics sector, which is the most popular sports in Ethiopia drawing huge sponsorships,” said Seleshi Bisrat, public relations head with the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.
According to him, Ethiopia tried to continue athletes’ training by changing the format to live video training conducted by experts.
Meanwhile, the federation has been supporting athletes, especially aspiring sportspersons by providing them gears, psychological counseling as well as financial support.