Coronavirus update

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Coronavirus tests ‘ready within weeks’ across Africa

The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa says she expects that all nations in sub-Saharan Africa will be able to test for the coronavirus “within a couple of weeks”.

Matshidiso Moeti said that 33 countries in the region already had the facilities in place. A month ago only Senegal and South Africa did.

“We expect in the next couple of weeks that all 47 of our member states will have the facilities to diagnose this virus,” she said.

Dr Moeti said the worst case scenario would be if the virus spread rapidly to African cities with no facilities to contain and treat people.

Officials in Senegal have confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus. The only other confirmed case in the sub-Saharan region is in Nigeria.

Chinese miners among 43 people quarantined in Nigeria

Some 43 people, including four Chinese nationals, have been quarantined in Nigeria’s northern Plateau state as a precaution to contain the possible spread of coronavirus.

The country confirmed its first coronavirus case last Friday. The patient is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and flew into the commercial capital of Lagos from Milan.

Authorities say they have reached about 100 people who may have come into contact with him. Of that number, 58 are under supervised self-isolation in Lagos and Ogun states, according to authorities.

Plateau state Commissioner of Information Dan Manjang told the BBC that the isolated group will be observed for 14 days.

Mr Manjang said the four Chinese nationals are quarantined within the premises where they live near the city of Jos. They arrived in Nigeria from China last week as part of a mining team.

Another 39 Nigerians who were in contact with the four Chinese nationals have also been quarantined.

Earlier on Monday, Nigeria’s Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire said the government has tightened surveillance at the various points of entry into the country.

Coronavirus: South Korea church leader apologises for virus spread

The head of the religious sect that has been at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea has apologised to the nation for the disease’s spread.

Lee Man-hee, the leader of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, got on his knees and bowed at a news conference.

About 60% of the country’s more than 4,000 confirmed cases are sect members.

On Monday, South Korea – the biggest hotspot outside China – reported 476 new cases, bringing the total number to 4,212. It has recorded 26 deaths.

Prosecutors have been asked to investigate Mr Lee on possible charges of gross negligence.

“Although it was not intentional, many people have been infected,” said the 88-year-old leader. “We put our utmost efforts, but were unable to prevent it all.”

Of the confirmed cases, 3,081 are from the southern city of Daegu and 73% of these cases have been linked to the Shincheonji Church near there.

In the capital, Seoul, the mayor urged the city’s 10 million residents to work from home and to avoid crowded places.

In other developments:

  • The European Centre for Disease Control has confirmed the risk level in the EU has increased from “moderate” to “moderate to high”. It was clarifying a comment from EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who had said the level had been changed to “high”. Several European countries have confirmed cases, with Italy the worst affected with more than 1,500 infected and 34 deaths
  • In the UK, where there are 36 confirmed cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the virus was “likely to become more significant in the days and weeks ahead”, after holding a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee
  • Indonesia – one of the world’s most populous countries – announced its first confirmed cases of coronavirus, a 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter, currently being treated at a Jakarta hospital
  • Portugal, Iceland and Andorra also reported their first confirmed cases on Monday
  • Asian and European stock markets initially stabilised after central banks pledged to intervene to help protect them from the impact of the coronavirus. But they then fell back into negative territory. Concerns about the outbreak last week wiped more than $5tn (£3.9tn) from global stocks
  • US sportswear giant Nike has closed its European headquarters in Hilversum in the Netherlands after an employee tested positive for the virus

Why is the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the spotlight?

Members of the fringe Christian group are believed to have infected one another and then travelled around the country, apparently undetected. The group has been accused of keeping its members’ names secret, making it harder to track the outbreak.

But church spokesman Kim Shin-chang told the BBC they had provided a list of members, students, and buildings to authorities.

“We were worried about releasing this information because of the safety of our members,

Mr Lee claims he is the second coming of Jesus Christ and identifies as “the promised pastor” mentioned in the Bible who will take 144,000 people to heaven with him.

The Shincheonji Church is labelled as a cult within South Korea and also in the Christian community, which results in the group often being discriminated against, persecuted or criticised, Mr Kim told the BBC.

What’s the global situation?

The number of people killed worldwide by the coronavirus has exceeded 3,000, as China reported 42 more deaths. More than 90% of the total deaths are in Hubei, the Chinese province where the virus emerged late last year.

Iran reported another 12 deaths on Monday, taking the total there to 66. They include Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a high-ranking adviser to the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian media reported on Monday.

Worldwide, there have been almost 90,000 confirmed cases, with the numbers outside China now growing faster than inside China.

Qatar, Ecuador, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Ireland were among countries that confirmed their first cases over the weekend, as did Jordan on Monday.

Ecuador on Monday reported five new cases of the disease, bringing the total number of infected patients in the country to six.

The US state of New York also confirmed its first case. The patient is a woman in her 30s who contracted the virus during a recent trip to Iran. Two people have died in the US, both in the state of Washington.

What’s the situation in China?

China on Monday reported 42 more deaths, all in Hubei. There were also 202 confirmed new cases – only six of which were outside Hubei. A total of 2,912 people have died inside China, with more than 80,000 confirmed cases of the virus.

A spokesman from China’s National Health Commission said the next stop would be to “focus on the risks brought by the resumption of work”.

China’s economy has taken a hit – with factory activity falling at a record rate.

On Monday, a man was sentenced to death by a Chinese court for fatally stabbing two officials at a virus checkpoint, news agency AFP reported.

Ma Jianguo, 23, refused to co-operate with officials – though it is not clear what he was told to do – and stabbed two checkpoint officials.

Egypt confirms second coronavirus case

Egypt’s health ministry on Sunday announced that one foreigner, whose nationality was not announced, had tested positive for coronavirus.

The ministry said that the patient was being treated in an isolation facility.

This is the second confirmed case in the country. The first coronavirus patient, who was announced last month, has reportedly recovered.

Egyptian health authorities are quoted by Reuters news agency as saying they were enforcing strict preventive measures for people who came into contact with this new patient.

Reports indicate that recently confirmed cases in France, the US and Canada involve people who travelled to Egypt.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran announced that two elderly people, who returned from a group trip in Egypt, tested positive for the virus.

Egypt said it had requested further information about those two patients and sent a medical team to look into the places they had visited.

US authorities on Sunday said a California couple with chronic health conditions who had recently travelled to Egypt tested positive for the virus and were now hospitalized.

Two people in Canada who tested positive for coronavirus had recently returned from Egypt.

Algeria confirms two more coronavirus cases

Algeria has confirmed two new cases of coronavirus infections, in a 53-year-old woman and her 24-year-old daughter.

They have been placed in isolation in Blida province south of the capital, Algiers, the health ministry said on Sunday.

It said the pair had hosted a man and his daughter from France who tested positive for coronavirus after their return.

It means there are now three people in Algeria confirmed as having the virus.

The country’s first case was confirmed last week in an Italian national, who authorities deported to Italy.

Coronavirus patient attempts to escape Lagos isolation centre

Following the detection of the first case of novel Coronavirus disease in Nigeria, and the placing in quarantine of the patient, identified as a 44-year-old Italian, at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, Lagos (formerly, Infectious Diseases Hospital), a health worker at the hospital said on Friday that the patient was angry and had attempted to escape.

The patient had complained about the state of the isolation centre, our source said.

The high ranking health worker, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity on Friday, decried the ‘very poor quality’ of the isolation centre, lamenting that “the authorities have not matched words with action.”

Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat, had said on Friday that the state government had built a facility to handle the situation, adding that the patient was getting better.

Hamzat had said, “It is a lab that can accommodate 100 for now, but it is only one bed that is occupied today. Hopefully, it wouldn’t spread. We are ready and we are well equipped. He (the patient) is there and he is getting better. He is steady. The doctors say he is going to be fine.’’

But the health worker told our correspondent that the Coronavirus index case had been “very upset about the surrounding,” adding that the patient “complained of excessive heat and mosquitoes.”

In an interaction with our correspondent, the health worker, who did not wear any personal protective equipment required of workers in such an environment, said, “The patient wanted to run away yesterday (Thursday). The Italian man, who seems to be an engineer, was very angry that the room where he was kept was very hot.

“There is nothing there (inside the isolation ward) aside from bed and hospital locker. He almost ran away and is still threatening to do that.”

The source said the level of preparedness in Lagos State for infectious diseases such as coronavirus and Lassa fever “is zero.”

An online entry describes the Mainland Hospital, where the Italian is being quarantined, as “an ultra-modern multi-drug resistant tuberculosis treatment centre, with a 40-bed admission facility.”

Our source, who emerged from the Out Patient Department of the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, alleged that Lagos State did not have the facility to accommodate individuals who might have come in contact with the Italian.

According to the source, the facility that is meant to accommodate both suspected and confirmed Coronavirus cases is still undergoing renovation “and might take a while” before it can function fully.

He also revealed that the isolation area was a room in one of the wards, and that it was quickly vacated to accommodate the index case.

The source alleged, “The only thing demarcating the room from other rooms in the ward is a red and white barricade tape. That is where the Italian man that tested positive to coronavirus is kept.

“There is no single equipment inside that place. It is just like any other regular hospital room with a bed. That building you see that is being repainted is the original place meant to quarantine coronavirus patients.

“As you can see, the place is not ready. The state government is just renovating it, despite the fact that the virus started spreading since December 2019. It is really sad that a country like Nigeria is never ready to medically contain infectious disease outbreak.

“This is why most health workers leave, because they are predisposed to danger of infection.”

According to the source, the Mainland Hospital does not have a ready and designated facility to isolate and treat Lassa fever patients, much less coronavirus. The source noted that the place earmarked for Lassa fever treatment had yet to be completed.

The source said, “The place meant for Lassa fever patient has been under construction in the past one month. It is not yet completed. As you can see, they are makeshift structures, hurriedly put together with white tarpaulin.

“They are not permanent structures and I don’t know how this place can accommodate humans that have a highly infectious disease like Lassa fever,” he said.

The health worker noted that despite the fact that the state government had been able to track some persons that had had contact with the index coronavirus case, they could not be quarantined, allegedly because the state lacks requisite facility.

“The standard medical operational procedure is to track all contacts and have them quarantined to avoid further spread of the virus. But we cannot do that here because we lack such facility, which is why there is emphasis on self quarantine.

“Even where the Italian man is presently being isolated was a room vacated by a patient. I pray God save us in the coming months because we are not ready for the danger posed by the coronavirus.”

Another worker in the hospital, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the patient was being isolated in Ward C.

The source said, “When the Italian was brought here, he was taken immediately to a room for isolation. He is there and we are still expecting more in the coming days.”

A nurse at the facility, who appeared unconcerned by the situation on ground, was seen walking out of the isolation area without wearing personal protective equipment.

When asked why she was not wearing a face mask and gloves, she answered our correspondent with a tinge of sarcasm; “What is coronavirus?”

“Gloves and face masks cannot do anything. We have been working here for years with people that have deadly diseases. At last, all of us will die,” she quipped as she walked away.

Meanwhile, the Medical Director of the Mainland Hospital, Dr. Abimbola Bowale, has assured that the patient “is stable and responding to treatment.”

He said the patient, who was admitted and quarantined on Thursday, “is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed and quarantined in accordance with health safety standard.”

“We are doing trace-monitoring, and, for now, we cannot say how many people he must have come in contact with.

“We are on top of the situation and all necessary precautions are being put in place,” he added.

Coronavirus: Three more cases confirmed in UK

Three more cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, including the first one in Wales.

This brings the total number of cases in the UK to 19 – following the first confirmed case in Northern Ireland on Thursday.

Two new patients in England contracted the virus while in Iran, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

The Welsh patient, from the Swansea area, was infected in northern Italy before travelling to the UK.

Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said “all appropriate measures” were being taken to care for the patient and reduce the risk of transmission.

Public Health Wales said it was working hard to identify the patient’s close contacts.

The patients in England are being treated at a specialist centre at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Meanwhile, nine Canary Islands residents have left a hotel in Tenerife that was locked down over coronavirus.

They were part of a group of 130 guests – including about 50 British nationals who were deemed low-risk – confined to the Costa Adeje Palace.

Nigeria reports first Coronavirus case

The Ministry of Health in Lagos State has confirmed its first case of the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), incidentally the first in Nigeria and in West Africa since the outbreak in China in January 2020.

This was contained in a statement released Friday morning by the state Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi.

It is the second confirmed case in Africa following one recently recorded in Algeria in North Africa.

The novel virus is fast spreading, having been reported in over 20 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and lately in Africa.

Like the case confirmed in Algeria, the victim, an Italian traveller, arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan on a business trip.

The victim used the Murtala Muhammad International Airport in Lagos.

The victim whose name was not identified is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

The Lagos State Government said it has reported it to the Federal Ministry of Health.

The statement from the government read, “The case is an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on the 25th of February from Milan, Italy for a brief business visit.

“He fell ill on the 26th February and was transferred to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing. COVID-19 infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.”

The state government said it is working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and other preparedness groups to ensure the case is effectively managed out of circulation.

The Senate had yesterday berated the Federal Government for not doing enough to screen passengers coming into the country from the nation’s airports and seaports.

First flight from China arrives in Kenya after banFirst flight from China arrives in Kenya after ban

The first flight from China has arrived in Kenya are a two-week ban imposed because of the coronavirus outrbeak.

The authorities have allowed the 239 passengers off the China Southern Airlines flight after it landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the capital, Nairobi.

They were screened on board to check for any signs that they were carrying the deadly virus.

The health ministry said the passengers had been advised to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution – the first time such a large number of passengers have been told to do so.

The Guangzhou-Nairobi route, suspended two weeks ago, will now provide one flight per week, down from the usual four.

Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said in a statement that a total of 17 suspected cases had been reported in the East African nation but they had all tested negative for the virus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.

She also advised Kenyans against non-essential travel to countries with confirmed cases.

Globally, more than 80,000 people in more than 40 countries have now been infected and more than 2,700 people have died.

Many Kenyans on social media have expressed disbelief at the government’s decision to let in the passengers from China.

On Wednesday, Algeria became the second country in Africa to confirm a coronavirus case after Egypt. The country’s health ministry said the patient arrived from Italy on 17 February.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti has warned that Africa’s “window of opportunity to prepare for the Covid19 disease is closing”



Nigeria scotches coronavirus rumors in Lagos

A suspected case of coronavirus in Nigeria has tested negative, according to the authorities in the country’s main city of Lagos.

The Chinese citizen, who arrived in the country seven weeks ago, went to a hospital in Lagos earlier this week with a fever, raising concerns.

Lagos State’s health ministry released the news on Twitter after rumors of a potential coronavirus case started spreading online.

The statement urged Nigerians not to spread unverified news

about the disease and emphasized the city’s readiness for a potential outbreak.

This is the 11th suspected coronavirus case in Nigeria to come back negative.

Earlier this week, Algeria became the second country on the continent to confirm a coronavirus case, after an Italian man tested positive.

Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, has killed more than 2,700 people. Most of the deaths have been in China, where the virus originated in December.

Globally, more than 80,000 people in more than 40 countries have now been infected.

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