The World Health Organisation, WHO, has since declared it a public health emergency of international dimensions. WHO chief Tedros Ghebereyesus said whiles China had a robust health system to detect and control, his outfit remained concerned about the virus entering country’s with weak systems.
Almost all African governments have publicly put in place strict screening at points of entry especially airports. Ivory Coast, Kenya, Ethiopia and Botswana have recorded suspected cases. All except Botswana have reported that the tests were negative. African airlines have cancelled scheduled flights to China except for Ethiopian Airlines.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to MERS coronavirus, which is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.
February 14, 2020: Egypt records Africa’s first case
The health ministry said the person affected was a foreigner. Their nationality was not disclosed but that they had been identified based on travel patterns.
Africa till now had ‘escaped’ the virus which has so far led to the death of over 1,300 people since the outbreak began in China in January. It is the first time that the virus has entered a new country since February 4.
February 13, 2020: Uganda to bailout students
Uganda’s foreign ministry plans to send $61,000 (UGX 222m) to students who are confined in the city of Wuhan, ruling out the option of evacuation.
“A total of 65 are known government sponsored students while 40 are on private sponsorship. Our mission in Beijing is in contact with these students on a daily basis. They created a WhatsApp group called Wechat which enables them to chat. The officer designated to follow them up is Amb Philip Kanyoonzi,” Ruth Aceng, the health minister said in a statement.
The health minister told parliament that Uganda does not have specialised knowledge to deal with the coronavirus, and would therefore not evacuate the students.
‘‘It is safe to keep those persons in Wuhan city there because the city is under lock down. Uganda does not have specialised capacity to handle coronavirus. The country is already stressed with outbreaks,’‘ Aceng said.
Aceng added that government had failed to charter a plane to airlift the students from Wuhan and bring home an estimated 105 students stranded in Wuhan.
Some of the students in China have asked government to evacuate them, adding that they were running out of money, food and protective face masks. They have been running a social media campaign under the hashtag #EvacuateUgandansInWuhan.
In the meantime, the government has asked at least 265 travellers from China, including 10 students to self-isolate for two weeks after they returned from China.
Chinese doctor in Liberia exports face masks to Wuhan
Reports of face mask shortages across China has been in the news recently as people struggled to avoid contamination with the coronavirus, now officially known as the COVID-19.
A recent report said a South African company was in the process of exporting 20 million face masks to help with the shortage in mainland China where the virus has claimed over 1,000 lives.
Over in Liberia, a Chinese doctor is sending a donation of 7,000 nose masks and 600 pieces of protective clothing to Wuhan – epicenter of the virus.
Dr Zhai Yu, 46, told the BBC Africa reporter that she and her staff were loading the equipment into a vehicle for shipment to China.
The doctor said she imported the medical gear six years ago to equip her clinic in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in the West African country, which has poor health services, the BBC report said.
She is now donating them “because our people in China have suffered too much; they are between life and death. Being Chinese overseas we want to try our best to do something for our homeland,” she said. “It’s our duty. We must do that.”
Ethiopian Airlines explains stance on China routes
Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebremariam has defended the company’s decision to maintain flights to China, arguing that suspending flights to the country would not end the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Ethiopian Airlines operates 35 weekly flights to five destinations in China, and Ethiopian on average transports 4,000 Chinese between China and Africa daily. Ethiopian serves Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
“As WHO clearly stated that suspending flights to China would not end the coronavirus outbreak as victims of the virus are located in other countries,” Tewolde told The Reporter.
‘‘If we stop flying to China we can still bring passengers from Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand and that originated from China. So the most important thing is to strengthen the passenger screening mechanism and follow the WHO procedures.’‘
Seventy percent of the Chinese passengers arriving Addis Ababa Bole International Airport transit to other African countries.
Tewolde says the airline has opted to follow the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations that emphasise screening, rather than travel restrictions.
“We should not isolate China. We should not marginalize Chinese passengers. What we should do is screen passengers in accordance with the WHO guidelines,” he added.
The Director General of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute Doctor Eba Abate also defended the airline’s decision, saying the coronavirus cases reported in the five cities that Ethiopian flies to is minimal.
According to Dr. Eba, body temperature of 47,167 passengers have been checked out of which 1,607 were from countries which reported cases of coronavirus. The institute is in the process to import the detergent used to test coronavirus.