Hairstyle to raise coronavirus awareness in East Africa
PIC: Associated Press (AP)

The coronavirus has revived a hairstyle in East Africa, one with braided spikes that echo the virus' distinctive shape.

The style's growing popularity is in part due to economic hardships linked to virus restrictions - it's cheap, mothers say - and to the goal of spreading awareness that the coronavirus is real.

The hairstyle had gone out of fashion in recent years as imported real and synthetic hair from India, China and Brazil began to flood the market and demand by local women increased.

Pictures of the flowing or braided imported styles are tacked up in beauty salons across much of Africa.

But now, in a makeshift salon beside a busy road in Kibera, a slum in the heart of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, 24-year-old hairdresser Sharon Refa braids young girls' hair into the antennae-like spikes that people call the "coronavirus hairstyle." Girls shift in the plastic chairs as she tugs at their scalps.

"Some grown-ups don't believe that the coronavirus is real, but then most young children appear keen to sanitize their hands and wear masks. So many adults do not do this, and that is why we came up with the corona hairstyle," Refa said, her face mask tucked under her chin.

Kenya's number of confirmed virus cases was nearing 700 as of Monday.

With the widespread shortage of testing materials, however, the real number of cases could be higher.

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