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Africa's low coronavirus rate due to robust preps - Senegal expert


With just over 100 cases reported in total, Africa is on record as among the least impacted continents with respect to the coronavirus epidemic.

Experts are however pointing at the gradual incidence of cases in recent weeks. Eleven countries have so far confirmed cases with the most recent being the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

Burkina Faso this week become the 10th African country to confirm COVID-19 – two cases from a woman who recently visited France.

Claudine Lougué, Burkina Faso’s health minister said: “This patient, recently stayed in Mulhouse in France with her husband and a third person, returned on February 24, 2020 without any symptoms. The three people who have traveled are people of Burkinabé nationality,” the Minister added.

The issue of possible underreporting of cases on the continent has been raised by international analysts. An expert with Senegal’s top disease control outfit says Africa has benefited from a robust preparedness for the epidemic.

Dr Amadou Sall, director of the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, also stressed the importance of lessons learned during the Ebola crisis that affected West Africa in 2014.

“I’m happy and proud [about] what Africa has done this time because usually we spend time running after epidemics when it is there but in this time we have been prepared,” he said.

“We put together a whole group of people that are going to be together working on referral of samples and confirmation, we’re going to do the [genetic] sequencing.

“And also very important we’re going to do research. Research is absolutely critical because three months ago nobody knew about this virus so understanding how it evolves in an African context is… absolutely important,” he added.

The underreporting concerns have usually been rebuffed especially on social media where users have rather accused Europe of bringing the disease to Africa.

Most confirmed cases in Africa were brought in by European travellers entering the territories or by Africans who have had recent travel history to Europe.

As at Wednesday March 11, the African case tally is as follows:

  • Egypt – 55
  • Algeria – 20
  • South Africa – 7
  • Tunisia – 5
  • Senegal – 4
  • Morocco – 2
  • Cameroon – 2
  • Burkina Faso – 2
  • Nigeria – 2
  • Togo – 1
  • DR Congo – 1

In West Africa, a Nigerian health commissioner on Monday confirmed the country’s second COVID-19 case in a man with links to the index case recorded in late February of an Italian businessman.

He did emphasise that there is no need for alarm. Akin Abayomi, Lagos State Commissioner for Health said: “Lagos has been handling this very well as is other states in Nigeria, and also at the federal government level.

“Our approach is to keep life and business going as usual and to make sure that we minimise the opportunity for this virus spread from person to person and you can see in Europe and other countries that it can really, it can get out of hand if you don’t be very aggressive upfront, that’s what we are doing in Lagos.”

In the south of the continent, South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Monday confirmed four more people have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. As at today (March 11), the cases had shot up to 13.

Minister Mkhize said at the time: “The source of the infection seems to have come from a group that had visited Italy…So just to indicate at this point, that four of them have also now tested positive.”

South Africa’s thirteen cases put it third on the continental list behind Egypt, which has 55 cases and Algeria with 20. COVID-19 has also been confirmed in Cameroon, Senegal and Togo.