Eritrea says two people have tested positive for Covid-19, three weeks after the nation announced all its confirmed patients had recovered from the virus, and made it the first country in the region to bring number of infections down to zero.
The new cases, a couple, emerged from a city-wide testing spree in Asmara, officials said on Wednesday.
And while Asmara had said recovery of patients did not mean relaxation of its guard, the new cases also came after it was revealed land and sea borders had continued to accept new arrivals, two months after Eritrea shut down its main airport.
On May 16, Eritrea had officially declared of being a corona virus-free nation after all the 39 patients successfully recovered from the highly infectious disease.
But on the same day, Eritrea’s High-Level Task Force on Covid-19, however, said that country will launch a “random and extensive testing to gauge the spread of Covid-19 in the country in a comprehensive and more reliable manner”
According to a statement issued Thursday by Eritrea’s ministry of information, the first phase of extensive random sampling and testing which had been conducted in various sections of the capital, Asmara, were completed on Wednesday.
“The random sampling and testing carried out fulfilled the standard criterion in terms of size of representative sample, urban density, demographic composition, gender, and other determinant variables” the statement said adding “The tests covered 4,659 households, with one representative of the household undergoing the actual nasal and throat swab tests”
Accordingly, all tested individuals except one woman have tested negative for the virus.
“Subsequently, all immediate and indirect contacts of the patient–13 individuals in total—were promptly traced and put in quarantine in accordance with established norms and practices. One of those quarantined is her husband and he was later diagnosed positive for Covid-19” the statement added confirming the total reported cases so far to 41.
While saying the overall result outcomes from the mass screening and testing are encouraging, the government however underscored that the fight against the deadly pandemic is still at its early phase for reasons including lack of testing outside the capital, Asmara.
“Although the random tests carried out are extensive in scope, they have been limited to Asmara only”
However, the tiny nation said it is due to expand ongoing tests beyond the capital to border towns and villages, as well as in other places, in the coming weeks.
“In the long term, the tests will be ramped up for much wider coverage”
Since Asmara reported its first Covid-19 case on March 21, the country has since enforced a series of rigorous containment measures, including suspension flights to and from Eritrea and a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread.
“As it happens, 5,270 individuals were put in quarantine in 81 centres established throughout the country in the past months. 3477 of these were released subsequently after due processes”
However, as travel to the country through land and sea routes continue unabated some 1,793 individuals still remain in quarantine in 45 centres, the statement said.
“It is evident that this influx will continue even as necessary border control measures are taken”
“Globally, the spread of the pandemic continues to grow at an alarming rate. The rate of contagion is also growing daily in our region. For all these considerations, we cannot relax our vigilance” it added.
The Task Force urged all citizens to “maintain the commendable commitment and adherence to the guidelines that they have shown” so far and to rectify, few breaches that have occurred intermittently; especially in market places and at social occasions – burials, mourning, weddings, and at places of worship.