First Coronavirus Cases Reported in Countries Across Africa

(Bloomberg) --

African nations from Rwanda to Mauritania have reported their first cases of coronavirus, demonstrating the spread of the pandemic is accelerating across the world’s second-most populated continent.

The sub-Saharan region has lagged behind rising numbers globally, as health-care systems brace for the virus to emerge. To date, of the more than 140,000 cases globally, only a few dozen had been confirmed in Africa. Infections now appear to be expanding geographically, with many of the new cases being found in people recently arrived from Europe, the epicenter of the outbreak outside of China. South Africa’s confirmed cases rose almost 60% in one day.

Mauritania, in the northwest of the region, reported its first case of Covid-19 on Friday -- an expatriate who traveled from Europe on March 9, according to the Ministry of Health. In southern Africa, Namibia reported that a couple visiting from Spain tested positive, its first cases. In central Africa, Rwanda’s health ministry confirmed the country’s first infection, a male Indian national who arrived from Mumbai on March 8.

The landlocked country of eSwatini, which shares borders with South Africa and Mozambique, reported its first case of the virus, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi. The 33-year-old woman, who returned from the U.S. at the end of February and then traveled to Lesotho before returning home to Eswatini, is in isolation, SABC said, citing Nkosi.

Officials are concerned that the rapid spread of the virus could overwhelm the region’s struggling health-care system. Africa accounts for 16% of the global population but just 1% of health-care spending. There’s little money for ventilators and other life-support equipment needed for severe cases of Covid-19, and any sustained fight against the coronavirus would steer resources away from malaria and HIV, which kill hundreds of thousands every year.

Apart from the new countries, other nations have shown an uptick in cases and are considering stepping up control measures.

First Coronavirus Cases Reported in Countries Across Africa

South Africa said its number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has risen to 38 from 24 the previous day. President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for an urgent cabinet meeting on Sunday that will “explore ways of intensifying the country’s response to this outbreak,” Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

In addition, a group of more than 100 nationals arrived in the country by jet from Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported in December. They are being quarantined at a resort with army protection.

Cameroon announced its third case, a citizen living in Italy who passed through Paris and arrived in the country on March 7, Manaouda Malache, minister of public health said in a statement posted on his twitter account.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.