Angola, Eritrea and Uganda confirmed their first cases of coronavirus, while Mauritius recorded its first death as the virus spreads across Africa despite measures by governments to hold it back.
Similarly, Sub-Saharan Africa has recorded its first deaths from the coronavirus. After a slow start, the case tally has more than tripled in the space of a week.
Two male residents who flew back from Portugal on March 17-18 have tested positive, Angolan Health Minister Silvia Lutucuta said on Saturday, while Eritrea said its first case was a 39-year-old national who had arrived from Norway.
Even if we take these 233 cases as true, we have to prepare for the worst. In other countries we have seen how the virus actually accelerates.
Uganda’s first case was announced early on Sunday by Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng. She said the man flew in to the country from Dubai on Saturday and was in stable condition.
Countries have reacted with stringent restrictions, from flight bans to school closures, while Rwanda went even further to order a general lockdown.
A high-ranking politician in Burkina Faso has been the first person in Sub-Saharan Africa to die from the coronavirus. Sixty-two-year-old diabetic Rose-Marie Compaore was a lawmaker for the country’s main opposition party and the first-vice president of parliament.
The continent has been spared the worst in the pandemic, with under a thousand cases so far. Africa is well versed in reacting to outbreaks, but experts warned that poor health services, poverty and conflict could hamper its response. Meanwhile the World Health Organization said to “prepare for the worst”.
“Even if we take these 233 cases as true, we have to prepare for the worst. In other countries we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point. So the best advice for Africa is to prepare for the worst,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Head of the World Health Organization.
In South Africa, which has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa, more citizens have taken to wearing masks and gloves in public as the number of confirmed cases rose on Saturday to 240.
Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, plans to close its two main international airports in the cities of Lagos and Abuja from Monday night. The number of reported cases there rose to 22 on Saturday.
Rwanda, which has 17 confirmed cases, stepped up preventive measures on Saturday, banning travel between towns and other parts of the country for two weeks, closing all bars, and requiring all government and private employees to work from home.
Both Rwanda and Uganda on Saturday announced they would close their borders.