The West African state of Benin on Tuesday ordered residents of key cities and towns to wear face masks as it sought to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The country of 11 million follows a growing number of nations where it has now obligatory to wear masks in public.
An official statement said the order covered 12 areas under a “cordon sanitaire” — including the capital Porto-Novo and the largest city, Cotonou — and come into effect from Wednesday.
All movement in and out of these areas is already banned, gatherings and public transport are restricted and bars are closed.
Masks will have to be worn “in all publicly and privately administered locations, in meetings, during encounters at the market, in shops, boutiques etc however many people are present,” the government said.
Benin has so far recorded 26 confirmed infections and one death from the novel coronavirus.
The government has been subsiding the cost of masks but pharmacies have been limiting purchases to two per person.
Few other African nations have yet made wearing masks compulsory as many have struggled to ensure supplies of protective equipment.
Morocco on Monday also ordered them to be worn in public and Ivory Coast has recommended they be used.
Authorities in the United States last week advised all Americans to wear masks in public.
While mask wearing has been widespread in Asia since the beginning of the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and numerous governments have said only carers or people with symptoms need to use them.