Coronavirus spreads to 30 African countries

Nairobi, Mar 16 (efe-epa).- Tanzania, Liberia, Somalia and Benin on Monday confirmed their first cases of Covid-19, a disease that has begun spreading more rapidly in Africa in recent days and now is affecting 30 countries on that continent.

Tanzania’s Health Ministry said the novel coronavirus was detected in a 46-year-old woman who arrived on Sunday at Kilimanjaro International Airport, which serves the northeastern city of Arusha.

The patient had flown from Belgium, having traveled to that European country on March 3 and also visited Sweden and Germany during her trip.

She has been placed under quarantine at Mount Meru Regional Hospital in Arusha, authorities said.

For its part, Liberia’s government said its first Covid-19 case corresponds to the head of that West African country’s environmental protection agency, Nathaniel Blama, who arrived on Friday from a trip to Switzerland.

Liberian authorities urged the population to remain calm while they seek to track down all people who may have been in contact with the patient and place them in quarantine.

Separately, the Somali government confirmed the first case in that country located in the Horn of Africa – a Somali man who arrived in Mogadishu from China early this month.

Somalia’s government also said that all international flights will be suspended as of Wednesday.

On Monday, Benin also joined the list of African countries with Covid-19 cases. It announced that the patient is a 49-year-old man from Burkina Faso who had arrived in that small West African country on March 12 after having been in his homeland and Belgium.

Besides Tanzania, Liberia, Somalia and Benin, several other African countries also have reported their first cases in recent days: Ethiopia, Kenya, Guinea-Conakry, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of the Congo, Seychelles, Central African Republic, Mauritania and Sudan.

To date, there are more than 350 confirmed cases of Covid-19 spread among 30 of Africa’s 54 sovereign countries.

Africa was hard-hit by the 2009 swine-flu pandemic, with that continent and Southeast Asia accounting for around half of the estimated 284,000 deaths, according to a 2012 estimate by a research team led by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That was due in part to the fact that the swine flu mainly targeted younger people and Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with 60 percent of its population under the age of 25, according to United Nations figures.

By contrast, mortality rates for Covid-19, which is not sparing the oldest members of the population, are much higher for the elderly than for younger people, according to the Our World in Data scientific online publication.



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