Coronavirus in Africa: Over 100 cases in 10 countries

Coronavirus in Africa: Over 100 cases in 10 countries

Cases of coronavirus in Africa have so far been few and spread across the continent but the numbers are rising rapidly as Nigeria and South Africa on Monday announced new cases and the first death recorded in Egypt.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday announced that 59 cases had been confirmed in Egypt, which remains worst-hit by the virus on the continent.

By Tuesday, March 10 Coronavirus cases in Africa stood as follows: Egypt (59) Algeria (20), South Africa (7), Senegal (4), Tunisia (2), Cameroon (2), Nigeria (2), Morocco (2) and Togo (1), according to WHO.

In South Africa, the health minister announced that four more people have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of cases to seven there.

All of the new infections are from the same group of ten people who returned from vacation in northern Italy in early March, the minister said.

The group of ten were already in self-isolation.

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

Egypt’s Ministry of Health announced on Sunday that a German citizen was the first death from the virus in the country, according to Ahram Online.

Panic buying

In Nigeria, the second patient contracted the illness after they came into contact with an Italian citizen who had traveled to Africa’s most populous country last month, according to the country’s health ministry.

The 44-year-old Italian man visited two states before he was diagnosed with the virus in late February. He remains in isolation in a stable condition, officials said.

Health officials have been working against the clock to trace all those who came into contact with him. Those that have been traced will remain in isolation while tests are conducted, the country’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said.

There has been panic buying and hiking of prices since news of the first case in Nigeria broke. In some places, hand sanitizers are being sold for more than 10 times the normal price.

The Consumer Protection Commission announced its intent to prosecute those who are price gouging in the midst of public apprehension over the virus.

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed for calm and health officials told CNN that Nigeria’s experience with Ebola has prepared the country for outbreaks like coronavirus.

Health workers have been deployed at Lagos airport to screen all arriving passengers, while some stores and banks are checking customers’ temperatures for fever and handing out sanitizers before they enter.

Meanwhile, the NCDC said it had contacted the United States Centers for Diseases Prevention and Control about a Nigerian citizen who tested positive in the country.

The man traveled from Nigeria to Washington but tested positive for the virus in Maryland.

“The patient’s travel history shows that the likelihood of his infection while in Nigeria is very low, ” the NCDC said while urging citizens to remain calm.

Nigeria has around 200 million citizens, so there are significant concerns about the impact of coronavirus spreading widely.

Travel bans

The spread of the virus has also prompted air travel restrictions and cancellations of high-level conferences across the continent.

Uganda has banned visitors traveling from seven countries it said were “highly-hit” by the virus on Monday. The affected countries are Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, China, Germany, and Spain.

“Government has decided to ask travelers from the affected countries not to come to Uganda because the high cases they are reporting can easily be imported into the country,” the country’s health minister Jane Ruth Aceng said in a statement on Monday.

Aceng said those who insist on visiting the East Africa nation from these countries would have to self-isolate at their own cost for 14 days either in their home or at a government facility.

Ugandans in affected countries are not exempted from the travel ban. Uganda also postponed the 2020 United Nations G77 and China Summit scheduled for mid-April amid coronavirus fears, the minister said.

More than 6,000 delegates from 136 member states were expected to attend.

Rwanda Air and Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc are among some African airlines that have suspended flights to China, while Kenya Airways also suspended flights to and from China until further notice, the airline said.

Ethiopia Airlines, however, tweeted that it will keep operating flights to China while adhering to international standards to ensure the safety of their passengers.
No water access

Frequent handwashing with soap and water is one of the key ways of ensuring infectious diseases such as coronavirus do not spread.

However, one in six healthcare facilities globally do not have both soap and water available for doctors, nurses and patients to wash their hands, says Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid UK.

Figures from WHO shows that only 42 percent of Nigerians have access to water, soap and washing facilities on their premises, while 25 percent have no access to water at all.

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