The number of coronavirus cases in Africa exceeded 1,000 on Saturday, while two heads of state appeared to challenge their own travel restrictions to attend the inauguration of another president.
Angola has announced its first cases, which means that at least 40 of the 54 African countries are now affected. Congo reported its first death; Burkina Faso reported two new ones. Somalia said it was lifting its ban on international flights for two days so that stranded citizens could return home. And Ethiopian electoral officials discussed the effect of the virus on a major national election later this year.
Angola closed its air, land and sea borders this week, but Namibian media showed Angolan President Joao Lourenco during the inauguration of Namibian President Hage Geingob. President Mokgweetsi Masisi of neighboring Botswana, who suspended international travel for all government employees this week, was also present.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was also present. He announced a national disaster before his country even confirmed its first case of the virus on Friday. His country announced the first case in the capital, Harare, on Saturday.
Burkina Faso now has the most virus deaths of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. The West African nation has one of the largest workloads on the continent with 64.
Several government ministers from Burkina Faso have been positive, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Friday, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore announced the closure of the country’s two international airports for two weeks with the exception of the military and cargo.
Burkina Faso is one of the most fragile states in Africa with a growing humanitarian crisis caused by attacks linked to Islamic extremists. More than 130 health centers have closed, affecting more than 1.5 million people, according to the government and humanitarian groups.
According to a government response plan seen by the Associated Press, emergency teams are not trained for an epidemic of respiratory disease and do not have appropriate protective equipment.
Border control is also insufficient. None of Burkina Faso’s 44 broadband entry points have the necessary personal protective equipment, and only 23% have coronavirus screening devices.
Jerry-Jonas Mbasha, cluster coordinator for the World Health Organization in Burkina Faso, said he was “very worried about what could happen next week, in two weeks”.
Most people have only mild flu-like symptoms of the coronavirus and recover within a few weeks, but the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by those who look good. It can cause serious illness, including pneumonia, in some patients, especially those with underlying health problems.
More than 275,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, including more than 11,000 deaths, according to a current count from Johns Hopkins University. At least 88,000 people have recovered.
In Nigeria, which announced the first case of coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa just three weeks ago, authorities said the first patient, a man from Italy, was now able to return home. Meanwhile, the most populous country in Africa said it now has cases in the capital, Abuja.
In Kenya, health officials continued to disinfect crowded markets in the capital, Nairobi, trying to stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s for our good, it’s for the good of the country,” said Simon Kimani, chair of the public health council.