SA virus cases rise to 116, African countries step up vigilance

Wednesday March 18 2020

A man walks outside Yaounde General Hospital on March 6, 2020. Cameroon has confirmed 10 cases of coronavirus. PHOTO | STRINGER | AFP


Coronavirus cases in South Africa have risen by 31, bringing the total number of infections to 116, the government has confirmed.

The government also reported that over 100 South Africans repatriated from Wuhan, China have all tested negative for Covid-19.

The South African government had facilitated the return of 114 of its citizens from the Chinese city, where the deadly epidemic is thought to have started in December, and ran tests after their arrival on Saturday.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed in a statement that although the entire group were clear of the virus, they would stay quarantined for the next two weeks.

The group is being accommodated at a resort 250 kilometres from Johannesburg at a small town in Polokwane.

The minister, however, expressed concern that a number of the new infections were patients with no international travel history.



Meanwhile, in Somalia, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre on Tuesday evening announced the closure of all educational establishments in the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“All educational institutions including schools and universities will remain closed for the coming 15 days,” he said, adding that his government has pledged $5 million to boost the fight against the pandemic.

The closure of schools and universities is to start on Wednesday, March 18.

The premier urged the people to stop all public gatherings and mass meetings to avoid spread.

Somalia announced its first coronavirus case on Sunday after a Somali national returning from China tested positive.

Reports indicate that four Somali nationals returning from China were quarantined at a temporary facility next to Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport. They are said to be medical students who recently graduated from Chinese universities.

“Tests done on the four proved negative, except one,” reported the minister.

Only humanitarian deliveries and medical emergency flights are currently allowed into Somalia.


In DR Congo, President Félix Tshisekedi was on Tuesday evening in a special Council of Ministers meeting to discuss urgent measures meant to tame the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the country.

It came as the seventh case of the disease was confirmed yesterday.

The Congolese Head of State is expected to announce a new approach to better fight against coronavirus spread.

"I was informed by Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (National Institute for Biomedical Research) of a fourth confirmed case of coronavirus in the DRC. This is a Congolese resident in Kinshasa who stayed in the United States and who returned on March 8, passing through France. All Congolese must continue to observe preventive measures", said Health minister Dr Eteni Longondo.

DR Congo has banned public gatherings in a bid to curb the virus' spread.


This comes as Cameroon announced it has closed its land, air and sea borders, as well as shutting down schools after it registered five new cases of coronavirus, bringing total number of known cases of the pandemic in the country to 10.

Officials in Yaounde, the capital, on Tuesday said they were taking "drastic measures" to prevent 'importation' and spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

In a televised address after chairing a crisis meeting in Yaounde Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Joseph Ngute ordered that borders be closed, schools be shut down and public gatherings of more then 50 be stopped.

“Cameroon’s land, air and sea borders will be closed. Consequently, all passenger flights from abroad will be suspended, with the exception of cargo flights and vessels transporting consumer products and essential goods and materials, whose stopover times will be limited and supervised. Cameroonians who wish to come back home should contact our diplomatic representations,” he said.


In Nigeria, the government on Wednesday confirmed its five new cases of Covid-19 infections, bringing the total number to eight.

An Italian and his Nigerian contact, who had earlier tested positive, have recovered. Nobody has died from the pandemic in Nigeria.

The Ministry of Health said the five infected people, including a mother and her child, travelled from the US.

As a result of the pandemic, the government placed travel restrictions on 13 countries – US, UK, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Nether-land, Norway, South Korea, Spain, and Switzerland.


Sierra Leone, which is yet to confirm a case of the coronavirus disease, has stepped up measures to keep the virus at bay.

President Julius Maada Bio imposed restrictions on overseas travel for government officials and banned public gatherings of more than 100 people.

In an unprecedented move, the president has also reached out to his political rivals to enlist their services on a team set up by his predecessor to coordinate the country's response to the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

Mr Bio said the Ebola experience would be crucial to tackle coronavirus in the event that it makes its way into the country.

The move comes two days after the Ministry of Health activated the Public Health Emergency Operation Center at Level 2, the second highest level of alertness.

The action on Friday March 13 happened after neighbouring Guinea recorded its first case of the virus.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Liberia confirmed its first case on Monday.

Report by Peter Dube, Abdulkadir Khalif, Patrick Ilunga, Ndi Eugene Ndi, Kemo Cham and Mohammed Momoh