• Africa has recorded its first confirmed case of the deadly novel coronavirus in Egypt.
  • The health ministry has revealed that the infected person is a foreigner.
  • Prior to this, there have been about 45 suspected cases across the continent.

Africa's first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has been detected in Egypt.

In a public statement, the Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed announced that the affected person is a "foreigner."

According to him, this foreigner does not show any serious symptoms as the deadly virus was quickly detected and confirmed through a follow-up programme for travellers coming from affected countries.

Travelers getting screened for the coronavirus infection at the Addis Ababa airport  (EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Travelers getting screened for the coronavirus infection at the Addis Ababa airport (EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The spokesman added that the person has been hospitalised and in isolation. His statement did not specify the foreigner's nationality or point of entry.

This makes Egypt the first African country to report a confirmed case of the deadly infection.

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Is Africa prepared to handle the coronavirus?

Since the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China, it has spread across the world, killing over 1,000 people and infecting nearly 65,000.

With over two dozen countries dealing with confirmed cases and deaths in some cases, more African nations are enhancing surveillance at ports of entry in order to detect the virus as quickly as possible.

Talking about the importance of early detection in Africa, Michel Yao, WHO Africa programme manager for emergency operations 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."

Coronavirus spreads to Africa
Coronavirus spreads to Africa

On Friday, February 14, 2020, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared on Africa's ability to deal with the virus.

"As we speak today, more than 16 countries now have that capacity to test. And by the 20th of this month, an additional 20 labs — that is 16 plus 20 — will have the capacity to test. So, we are scaling up very rapidly across the continent in terms of diagnostics. As we speak here now there is training going on in Nairobi, Kenya, on enhanced surveillance at airports and ports of entry screening. Over 40 countries will be trained in two sets," he said.

He added, "We are seeing what is happening in China, that even with the amount of resources, that in China it has been a struggle," he said. "This is a fast-evolving and fast-replicating virus. So, if the virus was to hit a fragile state in Africa, the concern is that the consequences would be very, very devastating."

Apart from this first confirmed case in Egypt, there are suspected patients who have been quarantined in Ethiopia, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, and Botswana.