Photograph — WHO

It’s been two months since the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus, now formally known as COVID-19, with over 60,000 confirmed cases of infection globally and near 1,400 deaths. So far, infections of COVID-19 have been detected in 25 countries outside China, including one in Egypt recently

Khaled Mugahed, spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Health said in a statement last Friday that the affected person was a foreigner who did not show any serious symptoms and that the person has been hospitalised and kept in isolation. 

Before Africa’s first confirmed case of Coronavirus last Friday, scientists and experts were quite concerned that there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the continent. They worried that COVID-19 might be present and spreading undetected on the continent considering China’s strong presence due to its trade ties with Africa. This is particularly alarming considering the fragile health-care system of most African countries. 

Their concern still stands. Countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Angola, Tanzania, and Sudan are at particular risk and considered highly vulnerable for a number of reasons; weak health-care systems, volatile political climate, and low economic status. Bloomberg reports that China is spending at least $10 billion to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. 

These countries, excluding Sudan, also receive direct flights from China, and a large number of travellers, hence an increased risk of importing the COVID-19 and consequently more need to increase preparedness. 

Having dealt with Ebola in the past, countries like Nigeria already have the expertise and infrastructure to tackle COVID-19. Isolation and treatment facilities have been set up in Lagos, the country’s most populated city, and Abuja, the federal capital. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has stated that more facilities are to be set up in six other states. 

More countries including Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, South Africa, and Sierra Leone now have laboratories that can test for the virus, thanks to a crash workshop organized for scientists from 15 African countries by the Africa CDC in Senegal two weekends ago. Participating countries received diagnostic tests including reagents. Three of the new laboratories with the capacity to diagnose COVID-19 are in Nigeria.

According to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, an additional 20 laboratories will have the capacity to test for the virus by the end of this week.

The Guardian reports that about 45 suspected cases of  COVID-19 have been reported to the World Health Organization from Ethiopia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Botswana, 35 of which were found to be negative. The remaining 10 remain in quarantine pending tests.

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