Senegal has become the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to record a coronavirus case, health minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said on Monday at a press conference in the capital, Dakar.
The Minister said the victim in question was a French national who entered the country aboard an Air Senegal flight on February 26. Nigeria is the other country in the region with a positive case, an Italian citizen.
The patient according to authorities lives in Senegal and flew back from France. He reported to a private hospital on 27 February with symptoms including a headache.
The authorities are monitoring everyone who travelled on the same flight as well as the patient’s family. The Minister underscored the country’s preparedness for the situation.
Senegal was one of few countries with the facilities to test for the virus very early on, along with South Africa and Ghana. The World Health Organization, WHO, has since boosted the capacity of a number of countries to test.
Egypt meanwhile, the first African country to record a case, just recorded its second coronavirus case. The country’s Health Ministry made the announcement on Monday.
It said in a statement that the patient is a foreigner, but did not specify their nationality.
Experts have expressed surprise at the slow rate of spread of the disease in Africa. Shortly after the virus appeared, specialists had warned of the risks of its spreading in Africa, because of the continent’s close commercial links with Beijing and the inadequacies of its medical services.
“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for Covid-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, told African Union health ministers gathered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on February 22.
As to why the epidemic is not more widespread in the continent, “nobody knows”, said Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, from the African Institute for Health Research in Durban, South Africa. “Perhaps there is simply not that much travel between Africa and China.”
But Ethiopian Airlines, the largest African airline, never suspended its flights to China since the epidemic began, and China Southern on Wednesday resumed its flights to Kenya. And, of course, people carrying coronavirus could enter the country from any of the other 60-odd countries with known cases.
Favourable climate factors have also been raised as a possibility. However, scientists have yet to identify any single factor responsible for the perceived slow spread of the disease in Africa.
Adira Kallo with agency