Deadly coronavirus has now arrived in Africa

Countries across Africa are preparing for an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus after the continent’s first case was reported in Egypt.

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed said that the affected person was a ‘foreigner’ who did not show any serious symptoms.

Officials were able to confirm the case through a screening programme for travellers arriving from countries where the disease has spread.

The ministry statement said the person was hospitalised and in isolation. It did not specify the person’s nationality or their point of entry.

Coronavirus has spread to over 25 countries worldwide since emerging at a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan in early December.

The death toll has surged past 1,500 and there have been over 60,000 cases globally – although experts say this figure could be much higher.

The latest development in Egypt makes it the first country in the African continent to report an infection and the second in the Middle East, after the United Arab Emirates diagnosed its first cases late last month.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has previously warned of deadly consequences if the virus hits poorer countries who do not have the capacity to deal with an epidemic.

The institution’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said ‘a global coordinated effort’ is needed to enhance preparedness in more unstable regions of the world.

He called on richer nations to donate funds to a £520m preparedness plan to help China and states with weaker health systems.

WHO has prioritised support for 13 African countries on the basis of their close transport links with China: Algeria, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

The strategy includes issuing technical guidance, advising health ministries on how to limit human-to-human transmission and ensuring they have the capacity to isolate and provide appropriate treatment to affected people.

WHO Africa programme manager for emergency operations Michel Yao said: ‘We all know how fragile health systems [are] in the African continent, they are already overwhelmed by many outbreaks.

‘For us, it is critical to detect coronavirus earlier [so] that we can prevent spreading within communities that can trigger a number of cases that can overwhelm the treatment capacity’.

The Director of Africa Centre for Disease Control, John Nkengasong, also outlined the threat to Africa posed by the coronavirus, now renamed Covid-19.

He said: ‘This disease is a serious threat to the social dynamics, economic growth, and security of Africa.

‘If we do not detect and contain disease outbreaks early, we cannot achieve our developmental goals.’

Africa’s preparedness efforts have been boosted with $19 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with some of it going towards training.

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