Pick up the phone in Ethiopia these days and you are greeted not by a ringtone but with a jingle urging the benefits of handwashing, social distancing and face masks. Churches and mosques are closed, with services conducted electronically. According to officials, community health workers have screened an astonishing 40-million people in 11-million households, verifying their travel history and conducting routine temperature checks. 

Authorities have readied quarantine places for 50,000 people and 15,000 beds in isolation centres. Most of these have not been needed. For whatever reasons, Ethiopia has, thus far, avoided the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. According to official data, the East African country of 110-million people, the continent’s second most populous nation, has recorded just 731 cases of Covid-19 and six Covid-related deaths. True, the number has shot up in recent days, perhaps as a consequence of ramped-up testing or a sign that community transmission is gat...

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