Ethiopia confirms first coronavirus case

Friday March 13 2020

Dr Lia Tadesse (2nd left), Minister of Health of Ethiopia, addresses the press during an urgent press conference at the Federal Ministry of Health after the first case of Covid-19 coronavirus was detected in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa on March 13, 2020. PHOTO | EDUARDO SOTERAS | AFP


Ethiopia on Friday announced its first novel corona virus case in the capital, Addis Ababa, becoming the third eastern Africa nation to have the virus on the same day.

But officials in the Addis Ababa stressed they were taking all precautionary measures to ensure it does not become a crisis in the country.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health said the patient, a 48-year old Japanese national had tested positive for Covid-19.

Health Minister, Dr Lia Tadesse, told local journalists that the man arrived in Ethiopia on March 4, 2020 from Burkina Faso.

“The victim is quarantined at Bole Chefa isolation centre and he is in a stable condition,” she said adding: “Those individuals who have been in close contact with the victim were immediately identified and quarantined”

While noting that panic and fear could equally be dangerous, the ministry said that most infected does recover after a brief illness.


However it said the illness might worsen for older people and for individuals whose health status stands in poor condition.

Speaking to The EastAfrican, Dr Boureima Hama Sambo, World Health Organization (WHO) country representative said Ethiopia is one of a top priority country for WHO in the region with regard to the pandemic.

“Having international flights to different Covid-19 affected counties and being a major tourist destination and the diplomatic capital of Africa put Ethiopia in a higher risk,” he added.

The government of Ethiopia had activated its national Public Health Emergency Operation Centre (PHEOC) and an Incident management system (IMS) to coordinate COVID-19 preparedness measures, since 31st January, when the outbreak was declared by WHO.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Ethiopia, seat of the African Union (AU) has cancelled international conferences which were planned to be held in the capital, Addis Ababa.

AU has also cancelled all planned meetings for March and April until further notice.

The WHO official said the cancellation of the international meetings were an appropriate decisions.

“It’s important to remember that there is never zero risk with any mass gathering events. Event organizers have to put in place a risk management strategy accordingly, so that risks can be managed based on the setting, the type of the event, the type of participants, the location and duration, etc” said Dr Sambo.

“National authorities should make proportional, evidence-based decisions about these types of issues based on their assessed risk of holding the event in their country”

“Similarly, companies and other organizations are at liberty to make their own decisions according to their specific circumstances and their assessment of the risk to business” he added.

He called on local health authorities to be involved in these processes so that if a case occurs during the gathering, it can be taken care of immediately and effectively.

WHO says many of the risks can be appropriately managed and even reduced through simple measures.

Ethiopia had established a national Corona task force, comprising seven ministers; to lead the prevention measures and a technical task force has also been set up with members from various government bodies

The horn of Africa’s has further allocated an additional budget for the prevention effort and is mobilizing more resources.

As well as Designation of isolation centers at three hospitals for case management and prepositioning of Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), Ethiopia has an Alert management System, surveillance, case investigation and contacts follow-up mechanism for detection of suspected cases in place.

Despite all the precautionary measures Ethiopia has taken so far, WHO however recommends for more efforts to leverage the prevention measures.

“Ethiopia should robust follow- up of the travelers coming from affected countries” he said adding “The country should also strengthen community- based surveillance and the capacity of frontline health workers”

Dr Sambo said global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and shortages of funds are major challenges, the World Health Organization (WHO) is facing in the collective prevention efforts.

“Funding gap for Covid-19 contingency plan and equipping the isolation facilities to the required standards to enable optimum provision of care to severe and critical cases of corona virus are main challenges”