Coronavirus: How Africa is faring

Map of AFrica
Map of AFrica used to illustrate the story.

Africa, as of Friday morning, has confirmed about 146 Covid-19 cases on the continent, the World Health Organisation has said.

The African region of the UN health agency, in a report on the status of the virus, said all countries in Africa must act to contain the spread and safeguard the health of its people.

Africa’s Status

The Covid-19 outbreak, which originated from China, has gotten worse, spreading all over the continents, except Antarctica.

Africa was one of the last continents to detect cases of the new coronavirus disease and most of the cases were imported into the continent.

So far, 18 Africa countries – Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Togo, Cameron, Cote d’ivore, Ghana, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea – have reported at least a case of the disease.

As the disease spreads, many African countries have been taking preventive measures to keep the disease out, while some are showing a strong level of preparedness to counter its spread.

Egypt

As at the time of reporting, Egypt has 67 confirmed cases reported. This is the highest, and more than half of all confirmed cases on the continent.

Most of the cases in Egypt are among passengers and crew members aboard a Nile cruise ship coming from the southern city of Aswan to Luxor, Egypt state-run Ahram Online reported.

Egypt has so far reported two deaths from the ongoing outbreak.

Tunisia

Tunisia has so far reported seven confirmed cases. Most of the cases were from travellers who had contracted the virus after returning from outside the country.

On March 4, the Tunisian Health Ministry had said that 996 people are in medical homes, quarantined over suspicion of being infected with the novel coronavirus.

The country also kicked out some Italian tourists who arrived in Kairouan from Tabarka, after refusing to comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on all visitors.

They were therefore banned from checking into their hotel in the central city of Kairouan.

Algeria

Algeria reported its second death from the ongoing coronavirus late Thursday.

The Algerian Health Ministry said in a statement that the victim was 55 years old.

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It added that the number of cases in the country had risen to 25.

Kenya

Kenya reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday. The index case was reported in a woman who had returned to the country from the U.S.

The patient was diagnosed at the government’s national influenza centre laboratory after travelling home via London on March 5.

Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya’s health minister, told a news conference the government had suspended all public gatherings, sporting events, open-air religious meetings and “all events that are of a huge public nature.”

He said schools would remain open but all inter-school events would be suspended.

Contact tracing is however, on going.

Kenya already has a 120-bed quarantine center in is capital, Nairobi, and two testing facilities, which countries in the region rely on to test for the virus.

South Africa

In South Africa,17 cases of the virus have so far been reported.

South Africa has also tested more than 600 potential cases.

Citizens can now walk into private laboratories and pay for private coronavirus tests costing around $75, according to local media report.

Democratic Republic of Congo

DRC confirmed its second case of the virus on Friday.

The patient, according to local media, is a Cameroonian living in DR Congo, who returned from France on March 8.

Congolese Health Minister Eteni Longondo said “A Cameroonian who lives in the DR Congo with his family went on vacation to France and returned to Kinshaa on March 8.

The patient is currently being cared for by a coronavirus response team in the capital of Kinshasa.

The first patient is a Congolese national who has been quarantined in Kinshasa.

Morocco

In Morocco, 7 cases of the virus have been reported.

Morocco’s minister of health announced the rise in cases on Friday.

The seventh case is that of a citizen who had recently returned from Spain who tested positive.

After reporting the sixth case on Wednesday, Morocco cancelled all religious events in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

Ghana

Ghana confirmed its first two cases on Thursday night.

The country’s Minister for Health, Kwasi Agyemang-Manu, made the announcement at a press briefing.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: 20 vaccines under development globally — WHO

Both patients according to the minister are in isolation and are stable.

The government has since initiated contact tracing.

Gabon

Gabon is the tenth country in Sub-Saharan Africa to record a first case of coronavirus, after its first case was confirmed Thursday night.

Its index case according to the government was a 27-year-old Gabonese man who returned from France on March 8.

Gabon’s minister of communication and government spokesperson Edgard Miyakou said “they are working to identify the people who have come into contact with this patient,” and is “calling on the population to keep calm.”

Burkina Faso

According to the Burkina Faso health ministry, “more than 13,000 arriving passengers have been monitored with equipment installed at the Ouagadougou airport, as part of a strategy to tackle the virus at a cost of some 13 million euros ($14,6 million).”

Burkina Faso confirmed its first two cases after a Burkinabe couple returned from France on February 24 and tested positive.

The couple are currently in quarantine at the Tengandogo teaching hospital, Ouagadougou.

Cameroon

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed Cameroon’s first case on Friday March 6.

The case is that of a 58-year-old French citizen who arrived Yaoundé on February 24.

Cameroon’s Public Health Minister, Manaouda Malachiee said in a statement that “the case was placed in solidarity confinement in the Care Centre of the Yaounde Central Hospital for appropriate treatment.”

Mr Malachiee advised the public to “be vigilant and adhere to hygiene rules.”

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast’s index case was confirmed on Wednesday.

The patient is an Ivorian, who, after returning from Italy, went to the hospital with complaints of fever and a runny nose.

Ivory Coast’s health ministry said in a statement that the patient has been quarantined and is stable and all precautionary measures are being taken.

Senegal

A partnership between UK and Senegal has been formed to develop a hand-held coronavirus testing kit.

CNN reported that a UK-based laboratory, Mologic is working with Senegal scientists to make a diagnostic kit for the virus that can “produce test results within 10 minutes.”

The company announced that it is “the first diagnostic kit developed in the UK to be jointly-manufactured in Africa.”

The project is a UK funded initiative.

Senegal’s health ministry confirmed its first case of COVID-2019 in the central Senegalese city of Touba.

The patient is a Senegalese national who resides in Italy but visited a doctor in Touba on March 10 – a day after showing symptoms. The infection was confirmed by a branch of French-research group the Pasteur Institute in Dakar.

Despite the confirmed case in the country, a top cleric, Sheikh Baba, declared that “the disease cannot affect particularly members of the Baye Niasse community.

“It seems that there is an epidemic called coronavirus that is panicking the world. The reason why all gathering of people is prohibited, but Baye Niasse’s family is protected. The corona can do nothing against it,” he said.

The health minister of Senegal, Abdoulaye Sarr, told local press that if advised to do so, the government will call off religious events.

Togo

Togo’s index case was confirmed on Friday March 6.

The patient, a 42-year-old woman who recently travelled to Benin, France, Germany, and Turkey.

She returned to Togo from Benin via road travel, arriving Lome the capital city on March 2.

According to a statement by the Togolese government, “she has been in isolation at an infectious disease treatment center and there were no major concerns regarding her health.”

Public authorities on Wednesday announced that the patient is in a “satisfactory clinical state,” and is not showing “any fever or symptoms that motivated their hospitalization.”

Nonetheless the government has urged citizens to “keep following preventive measures to curb the propagation of the virus.”

Ethiopia

Ethiopia confirmed its first case of the virus on Friday.

A Japanese man, 48-years-old, tested positive for the virus.

“The Japanese man arrived in Ethiopia from Burkina Faso last week, and he is now receiving medical treatment and is in good condition,” Ethiopia’s health minister, Liya Kebede, said.

She also added that the “country is prepared to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.”

Guinea, Sudan

Guinea and Sudan also confirmed their first case on Friday.

Guinea’s case is that of a European Union delegation employee, who self-isolated after taken ill upon her return from Europe.

The case in Sudan is that of a man in his 50’s who died on Thursday in the capital city Khartoum after being diagnosed with the virus. The man had just returned from a visit to the United Arab Emirates in the first week of March.

Sudan has since stopped issuing visas and flights to Italy, and Egypt over fears of COVID-19.

Nigeria

In Lagos, Nigeria, temperature screenings and use of hand sanitisers before entering public spaces such as banks, offices and restaurants are becoming mandatory, to limit the spread of the disease.

Signs informing the public on the best practices to avoid contracting coronavirus can be seen in parts of the city. Scores of health workers have been deployed at international airports in Nigeria to screen all arriving passengers.

Similar measures have also been adopted across the continent and passengers with suspected cases of the virus are placed in quarantine.

WHO’s response

WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, had on Wednesday classified the ongoing outbreak as a pandemic.

This was due to the erratic spread of the disease across countries in the world. As of time of reporting, about 125,000 cases have now been reported to WHO, from 118 countries and territories.

In the past two weeks, the number of cases reported outside China has increased almost 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has almost tripled.

The second reason the WHO DG gave, “is that despite our frequent warnings, we are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it.”

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti said “with Covid-19 officially declared a pandemic, all countries in Africa must act.”

He added that “every country can still change the course of this pandemic by scaling up their emergency preparedness or response. Cases may still be low in Africa and we can keep it that way with robust all-of-government actions to fight the new coronavirus.”

Containment, according to WHO is the most appropriate strategy for African countries. In order to do that the WHO Regional Office for Africa is “shifting from readiness to response mode.”

People who have come in contact with those confirmed to have the virus are being traced and efforts are being made to encourage early detection and surveillance capabilities at ports, airports and land crossings.

WHO reports that there are 62 of their experts in technical areas- coordination, treatment, infection, prevention and control, community engagement and surveillance who have been deployed across 18 countries, and even more, deployments are planned.

These experts are “assisting national governments in their response, helping them to manage the disease and prevent onward transmission.”

Tools for Member States are being developed to help with the “rapid collection and reporting of alerts, cases and contact data, streamlining and eventual contact tracing.”

A WebEx training was recently held to help surveillance focal points and data managers in-country on the use of these tools.

WHO is also striving to fill critical gaps such as the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE)- gloves, masks, hand sanitizers and will focus mainly on countries with confirmed cases and also their neighboring countries.

“In addition, transfers of PPE from WHO’s main warehouse in Dubai to a regional distribution hub in Accra is underway, and nine countries in the African region are due to receive deliveries of PPE directly from Dubai. At a global level, WHO is preparing new guidance on the proper use of PPEs.”

Virus transport media (VTMS), which are “container for safe and secure transportation, maintenance and storage of clinical samples containing viruses” are also emerging. Countries with critical shortages are the first priority.



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