How prepared is Africa for the coronavirus?

Nii Ntreh January 28, 2020
The coronavirus is currently a global health scare that has moved governments to plan for emergencies and prevention. Photo Credit: Prensa Latina

Authorities in Ivory Coast have reported the country and Africa’s first suspected incidence of the coronavirus.

A student who had flown into Abidjan from Beijing is currently undergoing tests monitored by health officials after she showed flu-lime symptoms that could be attributed to the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the disease does “not match any other known virus. The coronavirus is “a family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS and MERS.”

Coronavirus first broke out in the Wuhan province in China in late 2019. Now, there are reports that the Chinese government might have underestimated the threat of the virus.

There is currently no known cure for the disease that has claimed more than 100 lives having been contracted by some 4,500 people.

Global debate over the deadly flu has largely been had without direct African connection.

If the student in Ivory Coast is confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, it will be the first instance of the ailment in Africa. But that is only a small part of the reason the debate skips the continent.

The threat of global health crises means that the world’s biggest commercial cities become centers of concern. For the sake of the money and the volume of people, London, New York, Beijing and their likes, grab the headlines.

Another issue is Africa’s capacity to deal with the issues on the magnitude of what the coronavirus seems to be shaping up to be. The continent’s management of Ebola outbreaks can serve as a testament.

What we saw with Ebola in the last five years exposed the lack of logistics and personnel, administrative deficiencies as well as the poverty of information and resources for citizens.

These problems are endemic to the continent and that only means fears of the harm the coronavirus might unleash are not misplaced.

So far, individual countries are taking precautions. There is not much in the way of continental coordination in monitoring the movements of individuals.

As reported by, Nigeria, for instance, has installed “teams of paramedics [to] take the temperature of new arrivals with the mission of quarantining any traveler infected with the disease.”

The health ministries in Ghana, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya have similarly announced rigorous checks at international airports in those countries.

Citizens have also been encouraged to report flu at hospitals instead of self-medicating.

The WHO has so far refused to declare a global public health emergency on coronavirus. But such a decision owes to both bureaucratic and technical concerns.

For now, a fair assessment of the issue is that each country is on its own. Africa’s countries might do well to remember that.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: January 28, 2020


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