To date, 26 African countries have reported suspected coronavirus cases, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And despite the spread of the disease globally, only three countries on the continent, Algeria and Egypt in North Africa and now Nigeria in the sub-Saharan region, have announced confirmed cases.
The case in Algeria was an Italian who arrived in the country on Feb. 17, according to the World Health Organization. With more than 650 cases and 17 deaths, Italy has the largest outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe.
Despite the relatively small number of confirmed cases in Africa, medical experts have expressed worry about how the continent would cope with any outbreak. In preparation, the Africa C.D.C., in collaboration with the W.H.O., has worked with countries to improve their surveillance and testing processes.
Currently, 26 laboratories are able to test for the coronavirus on the continent, up from just two in early February, according to the W.H.O.
Dr. Ngozi Erondu, an associate fellow in the Global Health Program at Chatham House, an international research group in London, said the fact that Nigeria had been able to confirm the coronavirus case in just two days was “a very positive reflection of the disease surveillance and laboratory capacity in Nigeria.” But it will be key, she said, for all African countries to enhance scrutiny of travelers, especially those coming from countries with documented outbreaks.
“Staff at points of entry must realize that Covid-19 has no ethnicity or nationality, so personal biases must be checked,” she said, using the name of the disease caused by the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the Kenyan government faced criticism for allowing China Southern Airlines to resume flights from Guangzhou Province in China to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. The authorities said that all 239 passengers on the first plane after the service restarted had been screened onboard, cleared and advised to self-quarantine for 14 days.