Africa is seeing a steady spread of the coronavirus across the continent, with four new countries on Saturday confirming cases, so that 23 of Africa’s 54 countries have COVID-19 patients.
Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini and Mauritania reported their first cases. All were brought to the continent by travelers from overseas, as with almost all the other cases reported in Africa, health authorities said.
African governments and health officials are racing to contain the spread of the new virus on the continent of 1.3 billion people. If the disease spreads locally within the continent, health officials warn that several countries with fragile health systems could see higher mortality rates.
Namibia, which confirmed two cases of people who arrived from Spain, canceled its independence celebrations planned for March 21. The funds that were to have been spent on the independence festivities will now be used to fight the further spread of the coronavirus, officials said.
Nambian President Hage Geingob is to be sworn into a second term of office, but all other large gatherings have been suspended for the next 30 days. Flights linking Namibia to and from Qatar, Ethiopia and Germany have also been suspended for 30 days.
In response to two cases it confirmed, Mauritania closed schools for a week, reduced border crossing points, placed a ban on public gatherings and called for travelers from countries at risk to voluntarily confine themselves at home.
In South Africa, 14 new cases were confirmed, bringing the country’s total to 38.
A South African military plane repatriated 121 South African students who had been stranded in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak first became a crisis. The South African jet landed at the Polokwane airport in the country’s north.
All passengers had tested negative before the flight back from China, but as a precautionary measure the group, including the crew, would be quarantined for 21 days at a nearby hotel. The roads leading to both entrances of the Ranch Resort are being patrolled by the army and police, authorities said.
The vast majority of people recover from the virus. The WHO said that people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness might take three to six weeks to recover.
Africa’s hospitals might not be adequately prepared to care for large numbers of people who might need intensive care and ventilators, health experts said.
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