The coronavirus was confirmed in the Chinese city of Wuhan on January 7, 2020. Cases have since been confirmed in over 80 countries across the globe.
The World Health Organisation, WHO, has since declared it a public health emergency of international dimensions. WHO chief Tedros Ghebereyesus said whiles China had a robust health system to detect and control, his outfit remained concerned about the virus entering country’s with weak systems.
Almost all African governments have publicly put in place strict screening at points of entry especially airports. Cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal and Nigeria. African airlines have cancelled scheduled flights to China except for Ethiopian Airlines.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to MERS coronavirus, which is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.
In this article, we will share the latest developments as authorities implement measures to contain the spread of the virus, especially on the African continent.
- Cameroon confirms first case
- Twitter CEO cancels planned work trip to Africa
- Kenya identifies high-risk areas
- Three major conferences postponed
- South Africa records first case
- Cases more than double in Algeria
- 2 South Africans recover from coronavirus
- Tunisia suspends ferry services to Northern Italy
- Senegal records two new cases
- Africa Basketball League postponed
- Tanzania bans shaking hands
- Kenyans sharing fake news to be charged
- Senegal records second case
- Zimbabwe to deport foreigners without ‘medical clearance’
- Morocco records first case, sixth case in Africa
- Senegal, Tunisia confirm first cases
- Egypt confirms second coronavirus case
- Algeria confirms two more coronavirus cases
- Kenya suspends all flights from China
- Nigeria records first case
Cameroon confirms first case of coronavirus
Cameroon’s health minister Dr. Malachie Manaouda on Friday confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in the country.
The victim has been identified as a 58-year-old French national who arrived in the country on February 24.
‘‘The case was placed in solitary confinement in th Care Center of the Yaounde Central Hospital for appropriate treatment,’‘ read part of the minister’s statement.
Manaouda also reassured the country that government has put in place measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
First Coronavirus case hits Cameroon.
A release today from Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health says a French national arrived Yaounde with the virus and has been under medical observation.
— Mimi Mefo Info (@Mimimefo237) March 6, 2020
Twitter CEO reconsiders Africa plans
Twitter’s Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, says he is rethinking plans to spend as long as six months in Africa, partly due to concerns over the new-coronavirus epidemic.
I had been working on my plans where I’d work decentralized, as my team and I do when we travel, but in light of COVID-19 and everything else going on I need to reevaluate. Either way we’ll continue to pursue opportunities in Africa.
— Twitter Investor Relations (@TwitterIR) March 5, 2020
During his month-long trip to the African continent that saw Dorsey make stops in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia, the Twitter boss said he planned to spend even more time in Africa in 2020.
There have so far been 27 cases of the coronavirus on the continent; in Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.
Kenya identifies high-risk areas
Kenya named two coastal towns and its capital Nairobi among the regions at high risk of coronavirus outbreak, according to local media reports.
The border regions in the western and north-eastern parts of the country are also at risk, according to Kenya’s head of disease surveillance, Dr Daniel Lang’at.
Nairobi is named because of hosting the country’s main airport, while the coastal towns of Mombasa and Kilifi have a high influx of tourists.
Kenya is yet to record any conformed cases of the coronavirus.
Major conferences cancelled over coronavirus
Three major conferences in annual conferences in Africa have been cancelled with organizers citing the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has only recently arrived in sub-Saharan Africa.
The three are as follows:
- The high-level ministerial conference organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, (UN-ECA). It was scheduled to be held between 18 to 24 March in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
- The Next Einstein Forum schedules to take place next week in Kenya’s capital Nairobi has also been postponed to a later date. The forum, typically attended by more than 2,000 people from more than 79 countries was scheduled for 9 to 13 March.
- The two-day Africa CEO forum which was scheduled to be held early next week (9 to 10 March) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has also been postponed to a later date.
“Following global health concerns pertaining to the COVID-19 coronavirus and the need for added vigilance, upon consultation with partners, the ECA will postpone all public meetings until further notice,” an ECA statement read in part.
South Africa records first case
South Africa’s health minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize on Thursday confirmed that the country had recorded its first case of the coronavirus.
‘‘This morning, Thursday March 5, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of COVID-19 has tested positive,’‘ the minister tweeted.
The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people and they arrived back in South Africa on March 1, 2020.#COVID19
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) March 5, 2020
Cases more than double in Algeria
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Algeria has more than doubled, after more than nine new cases were registered on Wednesday night. The North African country now has 17 confirmed cases.
Algeria’s health ministry said nine new cases were registered from a family living in the northern Blida district, some 30km (20 miles) from the capital, Algiers.
According to Reuters, the family which accounts for 16 of the 17 cases last month hosted a man and his daughter based in France who were tested positive for coronavirus after flying back to France.
“Mobilisation of health teams remains at its hightest level,” the health ministry said in a statement, adding that government has put medical staff at hospitals, mainly in Blida and nearby towns, on alert to cope with new cases.
2 South Africans recover from coronavirus
South Africa says its nationals who had tested positive on the cruise ship Diamond Princess ‘ave now tested negative and will shortly be making their way home’.
The pair who initially tested positive for coronavirus had been hospitalised in Japan after being taken ashore from the cruise ship where they worked.
South Africa, which last week said it would evacuate its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, adding that those plans are at an ‘advanced stage’.
“A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated,” it adds in a statement.
They are said to be mostly “students, teachers and other professionals”.
The Diamond Princess was first quarantined in January when a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for coronavirus.
Tunisia suspends ferry services to Italy
Tunisia’s health minister Abdelatif el-Mekki said on Wednesday the country will suspend passenger ferry services to northern Italy, as one of the measures aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
The news follows Monday’s confirmation of a first case in the country; a Tunisian national who had recently arrived from Italy by sea.
Other measures taken by authorities include a separate terminal at Tunis airport for flights from northern Italy, which keeps passengers apart before a screening process.
Foreign football fans have also been banned from attending games with local clubs. Two Tunisian teams are scheduled to play against clubs from Morocco and Egypt in the coming days.
Senegal records two news cases
Senegal on Wednesday announced its third and fourth cases of coronavirus bringing the country’s tally to four. A statement from the Health Ministry said the two new cases had been confirmed by the Institut Pasteur de Dakar.
One of the new patients is connected with the second confirmed case. The 68-year-old French national is the wife of the patient diagnosed on Tuesday. The other patient is a 33-year-old English national who arrived in Dakar on February 24 from London.
On Monday, Senegal announced the first case of coronavirus in the country, becoming the second in sub-Saharan Africa after one was confirmed in Nigeria last week.
The index patient was a French man who lives in Senegal and came back from a skiing holiday in France on Feb. 26 on an Air Senegal flight, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr told reporters.
Africa Basketball League postponed
The Basketball Africa League, which was supposed to start next week in Senegal, has been postponed over the coronavirus outbreak.
The cancellation was done after advice from the Senegalese government, which on Monday confirmed that a second person had tested positive for the coronavirus.
12 teams including Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia were scheduled to compete. The league is being organised in partnership of America’s National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
Senegal, which is hosting the competition, has confirmed two cases of coronavirus, bringing the total confirmed cases in Africa to 12.
The other countries affected are Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia.
The following statement has been issued: pic.twitter.com/EUGEaYCBcP
— Basketball Africa League (@theBAL) March 4, 2020
Tanzania bans shaking hands
Tanzania’s football federation (TFF) followed the health ministry and president’s lead, banning handshakes between players before the start of a match.
The TFF said it was following advice issued by the ministry of health as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Tanzania’s State House shared photos showing Tanzanian President John Magufuli exchanging a foot greeting with an opposition leader.
Kenyans to be charged for spreading fake news
Kenya’s government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna has warned that nationals risk being fined $50,000 or be jailed for two years for publishing or sharing fake news about outbreak of coronavirus.
Oguna says detectives from the cybercrime unit are analysing content shared online for investigation, arrest and prosecution of those culpable.
Kenya’s Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes law, criminalises sharing of false, misleading or fictitious information and stipulates a fine of 5m Kenyan shillings ($50,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.
Kenya, like many governments across the world, has been grappling with cases of false alerts being shared on social media.
The ministry of health on Monday was forced to issue a statement explaining that a four-minute clip in circulation that gave the false impression that the government had confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country., was from a simulation event held over the weekend.
The Ministry of Health would like to caution the general public against an audio being shared on WhatsApp groups about confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Country. There is NO confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kenya.
— Ministry of Health (MOH_Kenya) March 2, 2020
Senegal records second case
Senegal recorded its second case of COVID-19 the ministry of health confirmed in a statement late Tuesday. Authorities said the patient was a French national who arrived in Dakar on 29 Feb from Paris.
This case is similar to the first which was recorded on Monday also of a French national resident in Senegal but having flown in from France.
Nigeria is only other sub-Saharan African country with a case involving an Italian national who flew into Lagos before proceeding to an adjoining state. He is however in quarantine at a facility run by the Lagos State government.
#Senegal‘s ministry of health confirms second case of COVID-19
– A French national who arrived in Dakar on 29 Feb from Paris.
– Similar to the first case reported March 2
– Nigeria is only other sub-Saharan African country with a case#Coronavirus hub: https://t.co/sRp9EHC1hc https://t.co/udIaoIrvxn
— Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban (@AlfaAfrican) March 3, 2020
Zimbabwe threatens deportation of entrants
Zimbabwe’s Health Minister says the country will deport foreigners who enter the country without medical clearance from their respective countries.
Minister Obediah Moyo was quoted by the state-owned Herald Newspaper as saying all visitors without medical clearance from government hospitals in their respective countries will be deported.
So far only West Africa in the sub-Saharan Africa region has recorded two cases in Nigeria and Senegal. Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco have all recorded cases but they fall under the Middle East and North Africa region under WHO classification.
Morocco records first case
Morocco’s health ministry on Monday evening confirmed that the country had recorded its first coronavirus case.
According to the Reuters news agency, the patient is a Moroccan man who was living in Italy. He is receiving treatment at a hospital in Casablanca.
The state-owned Maghreb Agency Press said the case was confirmed after tests at the Institut Pasteur-Maroc returned positive.
Morocco became the sixth African country to record a coronavirus case, following confirmations in Senegal and Tunisia on Monday.
Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt are the other countries that have been affected.
Senegal, Tunisia record first cases
Two African countries have confirmed first cases of coronavirus as at today (Monday, March 2). Tunisia confirmed its first case in an announcement by its health minister.
Abdelatif el-Maki said the patient was a 40-year-old Tunisian man, who arrived in the country by boat from Italy on 27 February. He and the other passengers had been advised to monitor themselves. When his fever spiked, he contacted emergency services.
Tunisia is the third North African country to record a case along with Algeria and Egypt. Senegal also became the second in sub-Saharan Africa to confirm a case after Nigeria. The Nigerian case is of an Italian national whiles the Senegal case is of a French national.
Egypt confirms second coronavirus case
Egypt on Sunday confirmed a second case of the coronavirus, announcing that a foreigner, whose nationality was not announced, had tested positive.
The patient was being treated in an isolation facility, according to the health ministry, which also said it was enforcing strict preventive measures for people who came into contact with this new patient.
This is the second confirmed case in the country. The first coronavirus patient, who was announced last month, has reportedly recovered.
Qatar has banned travellers from Egypt to prevent the spread of the virus, following reports that recently confirmed cases in France, the US and Canada involve people who travelled to Egypt.
Algeria confirms two more coronavirus cases
Algeria on Sunday confirmed two new cases of coronavirus infections, in a 53-year-old woman and her 24-year-old daughter.
The victims have been placed in isolation in Blida province south of the capital, Algiers, according to the health ministry, adding that the pair had hosted a man and his daughter from France who tested positive for coronavirus after their return.
Algeria now has three confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The country’s first case was confirmed last week in an Italian national, who was subsequently deported to Italy.
Kenya suspends all flights from China
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday issued a directive on the coronavirus, that included setting up a 21-member task force and the completion of an isolation centre at Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi within seven days.
“Kenya is a major international transport hub, with 70 per cent of international passengers in transit, and there is a significant threat arising from the spread of the coronavirus to Kenya from countries that have new and ongoing outbreaks of the pneumatic disease,” the Head of State said in his Executive Order Number 2 of 2020.
The President also ordered for the identification and preparation of isolation and treatment facilities in all Level Five and referral hospitals across the country to be concluded by March 15, 2020.
The National Emergency Response Committee led by the health minister has different cabinet secretaries including those in charge of Defence, Transport, Foreign Affairs, and Information Communication.
It would also have directors-general of Medical Services, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and Kenya Airports Authority, in addition to the Director of Immigration.
Earlier, a court had suspended flights between Kenya and China and ordered the state to prepare a plan to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The court ruling followed Wednesday’s resumption of flights by China Southern Airlines flights on the Guangzhou-Changsha-Nairobi route.
The Law Society of Kenya had filed a case asking the court to suspend flights again.
Justice James Makau suspended the flights for 10 days and ordered the state to prepare a “contingency plan on the prevention, surveillance and response to coronavirus”.
The team put in place by the president will also formulate, enforce and review processes and requirements for entry into Kenya of any persons suspected to have travelled to a coronavirus infested area.
Nigeria confirms first case in Sub-Saharan Africa
Nigerian authorities on Friday reported the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa as the outbreak spread to a region with some of the world’s weakest health systems.
The health commissioner for Lagos, Africa’s largest city with more than 20 million people, said an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan on a business trip fell ill the next day. Commissioner Akin Abayomi said the man was clinically stable with no serious symptoms.
Abayomi said officials were working to identify all of the man’s contacts since he arrived in Nigeria. Lagos state early this month advised people arriving from virus-affected areas to observe 14 days of self-quarantine while monitoring for any symptoms.
Nigerian health officials have been strengthening measures to ensure that any outbreak in Lagos is contained quickly, Abayomi said in a statement. He urged Lagos residents to take measures such as keeping their distance from people who are coughing and washing their hands regularly.
Cases of the virus were confirmed in Egypt and Algeria in north Africa in recent days. Until then, some global health experts had expressed surprise that no cases had been reported in Africa.
Nigeria is one of 13 African countries that WHO classified as high priority in this outbreak because of direct links to China or a high number of visitors from there.
The country was praised for quickly containing cases when the Ebola outbreak reached there in 2014 after an infected man from Liberia landed in Lagos. Nineteen people were infected and seven died, but officials were praised for effective public awareness campaigns and strong leadership.
“We have worked very hard to strengthen our systems in preparedness for this outbreak,” the director of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, tweeted.
“The Ebola outbreak taught us a lot of lessons,” Ihekweazu wrote in a commentary for The Conversation last month. As of December, all 36 of Nigeria’s states had a rapid response team in case of a disease outbreak, he wrote, and 22 states had emergency operations centers to better coordinate a response.
Nigeria is also currently dealing with an outbreak of Lassa fever, an indication of the health challenges that many African nations face.
With the new virus case announced in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 190 million people and numerous air links around the continent and beyond, other nations warned of possible spread.
“Given these recent developments globally and in Africa, it is not unlikely that we will have importation of COVID-19 to South Africa,” that country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said Friday.