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Sub-Saharan Africa on the alert for COVID-19

March 13, 2020

As COVID-19 spreads, countries in the region are increasing vigilance at airports and borders, with restrictions on flights out of Europe in particular. The expected economic fallout is another growing cause for concern.

Nigeria Temperaturkontrolle am Flughafen Lagos
Image: AFP/U. Ekpei

March 13

Sudan reports its first case. The man died on in Khartoum on Thursday, the health ministry said. He had been on a visit to the United Arab Emirates in early March. 

Ethiopia confirms its first case. A Japanese national tested positive in Addis Ababa, the capital's Deputy Mayor Takele Uma Banti says.

South Africa confirms eight new cases, bringing to 24 the overall number. The country has the highest number of reported cases. President Cyril Ramaphosa is to hold an emergeny cabinet meeting on the weekend. 

Kenya confirms its first case. The patient is a Kenyan who traveled from the US via London, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe says. Soon after the announcement, people were seen stocking up packets of flour, water and soap in a Nairobi supermarket. Public events will no longer be allowed. 

Uganda revises its air travel list to include the UK and and US.

Guinea reports its first case, a delegate of the European Union who had recently returned from Europe.

South Africa's one-day international cricket match against India on Sunday is postponed.

Read more: Coronavirus and sports: DFL propose league suspension

March 12

Gabon reports its first case, that of a 27-year-old man who recently returned home from France. 

Ghana confirms two cases. The two people had made recent trips to Norway and Turkey, authorities say.

South Africa says it has 17 confirmed cases but later revises the figure to 16. 

Chad closes its border with Cameroon

Read more: Coronavirus latest: Trump suspends travel from Europe's Schengen countries

March 11

The World Health Organization says COVID-19 is now a pandemic. 

South Africa confirms six new cases of the coronavirus, bringing to 17 the overall number.

Ivory Coast confirms its first case. The 45-year-old resident had been on a recent trip to Italy.

In Nigeria, finance and petroleum ministers brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the effects of coronavirus on the economy. "It is affecting what we very much depend on, the petroleum industry and therefore revenue,"  Buhari tells health workers. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has confirmed cases since February 28.

Zimbabwe: A Thai man who prompted panic in Harare tests negative. 

Ghana and Gabon ban official travel. The government of Ghana also releases $100 million (€89 million) to fight COVID-19.

Read more: What you need to know about the coronavirus 

March 10

Democratic Republic of Congo confirms its first case. The Belgian citizen tested positive at the airport and is quarantined. The DRC is fighting the world's worst Ebola and Measles epidemics.

South Africa sends a plane to collect 122 of its citizens who gotstranded due to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The Southern African Development Community suspends all public events until futher notice. 

March 9

A soldier at a roadblock
Italy is the worst-affected by coronavirus outside of ChinaImage: picture-alliance/Photoshot

Burkina Faso confirmed its first two cases late on Monday, a husband and wife who returned from a trip to France.

South Africa confirms four new cases. Health officials say the four were among a group of people who had traveled to Italy. The latest cases bring to seven the number confirmed in the country, making it the worst-affected in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Nigeria confirms a second case. The health minister says the patient was in Ogun state and had contacted the first reported case in Nigeria, an Italian man who was isolated on February 28. The Italian man had flown to Lagos from Milan via Istanbul in Turkey and traveled on to Ogun state before being isolated.

Southern African Development Community health ministers attend an extra-ordinary meeting in Tanzania.

In Niger authorities have detained a journalist who made a post on Facebook about a suspected case, Amnesty International says. 


March 8

A German tourist died Sunday of the novel coronavirus in a Sinai resort of eastern Egypt, the health ministry announced, the first death from the epidemic recorded in Africa.

South Africa confirms third case. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the wife of the first man reported with coronavirus has tested positive. The couple had traveled to Italy.

March 7

Senegal, with four confirmed cases, is the worst affected in the region to date. 

Nigeria was swift and transparent in sharing the COVID-19 sequence from its first case, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says on Twitter. "This is a true act of solidarity and an important step in stopping the #coronavirus from spreading."

South Africa confirms its second case of the virus. 

Read more: Coronavirus: How can I protect myself from infection?

March 6

Togo confirms its first case. The 42-year-old Lome resident tested positive the previous day. She had returned from on a trip to Benin, Germany, France and Turkey. The presidency says she is in isolation at a treatment center and all people she had contact with "have been identified and put in quarantine".

Cameroon confirms its first two cases. The minister of public health says a Cameroonian citizen who had close contact with a French man, the first person to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Both are in isolation in Yaounde Central Hospital.

Uganda: The United Nations cancels Africa Climate Week, regional conference due to be held in the east. The world body notes that Uganda's health ministry has put in place measures for people arriving from affected and showing symptoms to be placed in quarantine at state hospitals.

Nigeria: The WHO and the government in Abuja sayin the seven days since Africa's most populous country reported its first case, no new cases have been reported. Health Minister Osagie Ehanire says 61 people who had contact with the one confirmed COVID-19 case were monitored since the first confirmed case on February 27. 

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it plans to boost its spending to prevent a spread. The transport minister meanwhile says the completion of the Lagos-to-Ibadan railway project has been delayed because Chinese workers had not returned to the country due to the coronavirus. 

Ghana: President Nana Akufo-Addo say strict checks and screening procedures are being carried out at points of entry to Ghana. He also urges Ghanaians to stop shaking hands and cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough. The country's Catholic bishops outlaws handshakes and communion taken by mouth. 

Read more: Coronavirus vaccine — a race against time