Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland has announced that it has lifted the ban it had imposed on the use, importation and sale of Khat, a step that was initially taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Puntland state’s minister of health, Dr Jaama Farah, said they temporarily eased the COVID-19 containment restrictions in the region allowing movements of people in and out of the region as part of a gradual loosening of restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic imposed in late March.
The minister also allowed Khat traders to bring in the stimulant plant from Ethiopia and elsewhere but stressed that it should not be sold near the administrative and United Nations centers in the region for security purposes.
The ban had barely slowed down the use of Khat in the region, with traders smuggling in loads of the stimulant plant, creating a headache for law enforcement who suddenly had to deal with a newly thriving black market that even drew in senior government officials.
In the capital Mogadishu and other parts of the country, a similar ban remains in force, although authorities are also facing a challenge identical to that faced by Puntland.
The decision to lift the ban comes amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in the region.
Puntland has so far recorded 136 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 5 deaths since the outbreak of the deadly pandemic in the region.
Puntland has in the past instituted raft of measures to contain the possible spread of COVID-19 including closing schools, banning large gatherings, enforcing night time curfew.