Eritrea may well be on the path to eliminate Covid-19 on its soil, after 38 of the 39 reported cases recovered and were discharged from hospital.
The country’s Health Ministry says it now has only one active case of Covid-19 following what officials say is strict guideline for people to stay home.
The country has not reported a single case of the novel coronavirus disease since April 18 when four people who had been quarantined contracted the virus.
The “standard tests” at the National Laboratory, said Yemane Meskel, the government spokesman and Minister for Information, had showed 38 patients had so far been cured.
Despite this level of recovery, the government in Asmara has stressed that the latest achievement should not, however, convey a wrong picture and prompt the public to loosen regulations enforced by country’s task force.
“This important milestone should not induce complacency. The grave threat of the pandemic has not been eradicated. We are not out of the woods yet,” Meskel said on Tuesday.
“In the event, we urge every citizen to continue to fully adhere to, and diligently implement, the Government of Eritrea guidelines in force until the ongoing task of detailed and comprehensive assessment to gauge the spread of the pandemic in the entire country with full certainty is accomplished.”
The current Covid-19 tally in Eritrea stands at 39 cases, the lowest in the region.
Officials say they were holding up to 3,000 people in quarantine and could test them several times for them to be released.
Officials, however, face a daunting task to keep the country totally free of Covid-19 even as it interacts with neighbours.
Last week, President Isaias Afeworki broke social distancing rules and travelled to neighbouring Ethiopia where he met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia has reported 261 cases including 11 new cases on Tuesday, on the same day 106 had been reported recovered so far.
Eritrea is also a reclusive nation that only recently mended fences with Ethiopia, with which they had been at war for two decades. It suspended itself from the regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), accusing the body of perpetuating the interests of some members against others.
Igad recently endorsed a common strategy against Covid-19 and other future outbreaks.
Yet Eritrea’s own assessment of Covid-19 may have little verification. According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, currently, there is a large gap in testing rates between countries.
In the case of East Africa, smaller countries like Djibouti have made larger rates of testing compared to their larger neighbours.
Djibouti, with a population of less than one million, has reportedly conducted high rates of testing per-capita compared to other African countries.
According to WHO, mass testing plays a major role in the response to the coronavirus, hence it serves as a primary tool to find out how far the disease has spread in a country.
Although, there is no a reliable data into which African countries are succeeding or lagging behind Covid-19 testing. In fact, testing data is not available from Eritrea and other countries like Somalia and Tanzania.
It could be limited capacity to make mass tests on daily bases.
In the meantime, Eritrea’s milestone could justify what officials imposed earlier and called it ‘guidelines’ including shutting borders, international flights and strict quarantine measures requiring everyone to stay home.
Previously, Eritrea has refused the Covid-19 supplies donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Group. Asmara did not explain the rejection.