Coronavirus in Africa: The continent's biggest airline reduces flights to China as death toll hits 1,000

Travelers getting screened for the coronavirus infection at the Addis Ababa airport  (EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
  • The coronavirus continues to spread at a fast pace from Wuhan, China.
  • There are now over 40,000 confirmed cases in more than 25 countries/territories including mainland China and 1,016 deaths caused by the outbreak.
  • With these many cases and deaths, Africa is stepping up its security and health measures.

The deadly coronavirus has been detected in many parts of the world excluding Africa and South America.

However, the continent's extensive trade links with China make it susceptible to the outbreak since it usually involves people who have traveled to the affected country.

This is why many African airlines are responding to this deadly threat by suspending trips to China. All except Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline on the continent.

Speaking with the local media, the airline’s chief executive, Tewolde Gebremariam said, “Ethiopian Airlines serves countries in good and bad times. China has a strong trade and investment relationship with Africa, and Ethiopian Airlines is the major carrier that links China with many African countries."

He added, " If we stop flights to China, we break that relationship. Today, if we are not going to fly to China, China and Africa are going to be completely disconnected. We have to take maximum precautions, but stopping flights is not one of them.”

This was last week. As of today, February 11, 2020, there have been a total of 1,016 deaths and 2,478 new confirmed cases in mainland China.

Following the growing spread of the deadly virus, Quartz Africa reports that Ethiopian Airlines has cut down its February 2020 flights from selected Chinese towns by 33%. They are Addis Ababa to Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has publicly appealed to the airline to suspend flights to China.

“Our worry as a country is not that China cannot manage the disease. Our biggest worry is diseases coming into areas with weaker health systems like ours,” he said. “It has nothing to do with our relationship with any country. It’s about protecting our people from the risk of infection.”

For now, there are several suspected cases but Africa is yet to record a confirmed case of the deadly virus.

According to Dr Michel Yao, World Health Organization (WHO) Africa’s Emergency Operations Manager, the continent is still preparing for the outbreak.

Many African countries like Senegal and Libya have stepped up their efforts to stop the spread of the virus especially at their points of entries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus also said “WHO is working to keep laboratories with the capacity to rapidly diagnose cases. Without vital diagnostic capacity, countries are in the dark as to how far the virus has spread.”

The main signs of the pneumonia-like illness are fever (high temperature), cough shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Your best chance of reducing your risk of getting the virus remains frequent hand washing with soap or gel, avoiding close contact with people who are ill and your eyes, nose and mouth.

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