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Live updates: How Africa is responding to deadly Coronavirus

US updates travel warning to China to highest level as mayor of Wuhan admits authorities were too slow in releasing information about virus. Follow the latest news about the coronavirus on The Bloomgist

Good morning, I’m Mike Ikenwa running the Live updates with contributions from Sade Olakunle in Lagos, Kingsley in Abuja, Kitur Lelei in Kenya and Lethabo Bongani in South Africa.

A Kenyan student from China with symptoms similar to those of the deadly coronavirus has been quarantined at the national referral hospital in the capital, Nairobi.

Edito’s drop:

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora, has disclosed that The Federal government is setting up facilities to diagnose the Novel Coronavirus. He further said the government had already activated an emergency preparedness multisectoral group.


Here’s a summary of what we know so far today on the coronavirus outbreak:

  • First African contracts the virus
  • 361 people have died in China, one in the Philippines
  • Confirmed infections in China are 17,238 (official Chinese figures include Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao)
  • Outside of China, infections stand at more than 150 (for simplicity of comparison between the numbers, I have removed Taiwan [10], Hong Kong [15] and Macao [8] from this global figure)
  • 36 people on France’s evacuation flights from Wuhan showed symptoms of the flights – 20 French nationals and 16 foreign nationals
  • China’s markets plunged on opening, on the first day of trading since the extended lunar new year. Shanghai is down nearly 8%
  • Health workers in Hong Kong have gone on strike, calling for closure of border with Ching
  • Vietnam and the US confirm three new cases each
  • A Qantas charter flight carrying Australian citizens has departed Wuhan and is due to arrive in Western Australia at about 4pm local time
  • New Zealand has banned foreign travellers from China from entering
  • The Maldives have banned entry of travellers from China
  • The new hospital in Wuhan, built to accommodate coronavirus patients has opened.

Monday, 3 February

  • So far,

    The Associated Press has published an updated list of global cases of the coronavirus:

    China: 17,205 cases on the mainland. In addition, Hong Kong has 14 cases and Macao has seven. Most of the 361 deaths have been in central Hubei province, where illnesses from the new type of coronavirus were first detected in December.
    Japan: 20
    Thailand: 19
    Singapore: 18
    South Korea: 15
    United States: 11
    Germany: 10
    Taiwan: 10
    Malaysia: 8
    Australia: 7
    Vietnam: 8
    France: 6
    United Arab Emirates: 5
    Canada: 4
    India: 3
    Philippines: 1 death, 1 additional case
    Russia: 2
    Italy: 2
    Britain: 2
    Nepal: 1
    Sri Lanka: 1
    Sweden: 1
    Spain: 1
    Cambodia: 1
    Finland: 1

  • China issues appeal for masks, suits and goggles

    Hello, this is Michael Safi, I’ll be updating you with the latest developments in this story over the next hours.

    We’re getting a little more now from the press conference (given online, not in person) by the Chinese foreign ministry. The government has been at pains to emphasise that it has the tools to control the spread of this coronavirus outbreak, but this morning did concede it needs some help – in the form of protective medical equipment.

    What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits, and safety goggles,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing on Monday morning.

    China’s factories can produce 20 million masks per day, but panic over the virus has prompted people in the country of 1.4 billion to stock up on surgical masks, while frontline medical personnel have reported equipment shortages.

    Agence-France Press provides this context:

    At full capacity, China’s factories are only able to produce around 20 million masks a day, according to the ministry of industry.

    The foreign ministry said countries including South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and Hungary have donated medical supplies.

    Tian Yulong of the industry ministry said earlier Monday that authorities were taking steps to bring in masks from Europe, Japan and the US, adding that supply and demand in China remained in “tight equilibrium” as factories returned to production after the Lunar New Year lull.

    He said they were now operating at “between 60 and 70 percent capacity”.

    In addition to Hubei, the province of more than 50 million people at the centre of the outbreak, several other provinces and cities across China have made it compulsory to wear masks in public as virus fears have grown.

    These include Guangdong – China’s most populous province – plus Sichuan, Jiangxi, Liaoning and the city of Nanjing, with a combined population of more than 300 million.

  • So, what have I missed?

    If you’re just checking in with us this Monday, here are the major developments in the ongoing coronavirus story:

    • There are now 17,459 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins university. The death toll is 362 people, while 489 have recovered.
    • The death toll is now higher than that from the Sars epidemic, which was 349 people.
    • More and more countries are temporarily banning people coming from mainland China from entering. Among them is New Zealand, whose prime minister Jacinda Ardern this morning cited “the range of unknowns in the way the virus is being transmitted” to justify her country’s decision.
    • We’ve registered the first fatality from the disease outside China. A 44-year old Chinese citizen has died in the Philippines after travelling there from Wuhan, where he was from. The race is now on to identify everyone he came into contact with, including people passengers in the aircraft he flew in, and staff in the hotels where he stayed. He was travelling with a 38-year old woman who was confirmed to have the virus but is no longer showing symptoms.
    • Outside China, Hong Kong and Macau, the highest confirmed cases are in Japan (20 people), Thailand (19), Singapore (18), South Korea (15), Australia (12) and the US, which confirmed its 11th case overnight. A woman in Santa Clara, California, had recently travelled to Wuhan and returned with the disease. But her symptoms are said to be minor and she’s being quarantined at home.
    • The outbreak has battered Chinese stock markets, which have plunged at least 7% after re-opening for the first time since they closed for the lunar new year on 23 January. Trading in several commodities was suspended after losses quickly exceeded their daily limits.

    Stick with us. We’ll be sharing more as it emerges today.

  • ‘Shoddy’ coronavirus screening in Zimbabwe criticised

    A video of an airport staff at the Victoria Falls Airport, in western Zimbabwe, screening passengers for the coronavirus without wearing a mask has sparked discussions about the country’s preparedness.

    In the video, the official checks the temperatures of arriving passengers with his face mask over the neck instead of using it to cover his nose and mouth.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week issued guidelines on the use of face masks, advising health workers to use them to protect themselves and dispose them off when they get dump.

    The video of the Zimbabwean health worker was posted on the Twitter handle of the ministry of health. It was taken during a visit by the minister to check on passenger screening at the airport:

    The ministry said no case of suspected coronavirus had been reported so far, but it was “on high alert, and has activated the national preparedness and response mechanism”.

    This includes surveillance of all people coming from China and other countries that have confirmed outbreak of the virus.

    Zimbabweans commenting on the video faulted the government and health workers:

    “The guy conducting the test is himself not protected yet the disease is communicable human to human at less than a meter. If you can’t do it properly just don’t do it. Take a leap of faith,” Tjiyapo Velempini wrote.

    “People are actually getting past him before he reads whatever is on the screen of the device,” Marawe commented.

    “Even the travellers were baffled by that shoddy, unsafe and comic screening process, just look at their faces,” Mabhinda wrote.

  • First African contracts the virus

    A 21-year-old Cameroonian student in China has become the first African known to be diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus.

    In a statement, Yangtze University said the student was being treated in hospital in southern Jingzhou city after contracting the illness while on a visit to Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak.

    He had returned to Jingzhou, where he lived, on 19 January, before a lockdown was imposed in Wuhan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200 people.

    The BBC’s Killian Ngala reports from Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé that the case has renewed concerns about the safety of some 300 Cameroonians quarantined in Wuhan with little access to water, food and surgical masks.

  • Fear of coronavirus grips Africans in China

    China’s Wuhan city – which is at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak – is home to approximately 5,000 African students.

    Many are drawn to the city by the large number of universities. Some would have left the city before the outbreak, but those that have stayed have watched many of their international classmates evacuated from the city by their own governments.

    The British, Americans, Indians and Japanese have organised flights for their nationals to leave the country.

    Many African students who I have spoken to feel angry that their governments have no plans to evacuate them.

    Some medical students from Zambia are living on hospital sites close to where patients that have contracted the coronavirus are being treated.

    They fear that living in such close proximity to the illness places them at huge risk.

    There are thought to be more than 1,000 African students in lockdown across the city. While there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Africa experts claim that the continent remains vulnerable.

Friday, 31 January

  • Nigerian nurses worried about coronavirus

    Travellers are being screened at points of entry

    Nigeria’s nurses union has expressed concerns over the country’s preparedness for coronavirus despite the government saying it is ready to handle any cases that may arise.

    The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) leader Abdulrauf Adeniji said nurses were not well equipped to handle the virus.

    Nurses lack safety kits, while basic supplies like gloves and masks have not been provided, Mr Adeniji is quoted in the The Punch newspaper as saying.

    It means health workers are being forced to carry their own safety kits, particularly those deployed at points of entry, he said.

    Nigeria’s Health Minister Osagie Ehanire is quoted by local media as saying the country is ready for any suspected case.

    He said all passengers were being screen at airports, and that health officials had a plan in case of any suspected case.

    All suspected coronavirus cases in Africa – one in Ivory Coast, four in Ethiopia and one in Kenya – have tested negative.

  • Kenya Airways suspends flights to China

    The coronavirus outbreak in China has been declared a global health emergency

    Kenya’s national carrier has suspended all flights to and from China because of the coronavirus outbreak.

    The virus has caused more than 200 deaths in China with and 98 cases in 18 other countries.

    Six suspected cases had been reported across Africa over the last week but the patients tested negative for the virus. The case in Kenya involved a student who was quarantined after arriving from Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak in China.

    Kenya Airways said consultations were ongoing with the ministries of health and foreign affairs on the length of the suspension.

    It added that its route to Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, would still be operational.

    Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s biggest operators, announced on Thursday that it would continue operating all its flights to China.

    It says it is working with Chinese and Ethiopian authorities to “protect its passengers and crew” from the virus.

Thursday, 30 January

  • Cameroonians stranded by coronavirus seek urgent help

    Some 300 Cameroonians are stranded in China

    Cameroonians stranded in Wuhan, the provincial capital of the Hubei province of China, are calling on their government to come to their rescue as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread.

    Wuhan is the epicentre of the epidemic that has so far killed at least 170 people, with over 7,000 cases recorded in China alone.

    The more than 300 Cameroonians working and living in China say they have been ignored by their embassy officials, and so they have decided to take their case to the president of the republic.

    In an open letter to President Paul Biya, the stranded Cameroonians say the lockdown measures taken by the Chinese government in Wuhan have made it harder for them to get basic goods like food and water:

    “With shopping centres, markets, and transportation at a standstill, we are therefore very anxious about the future of events. Wuhan has been in quarantine since 23 January 2020, Mr President,” the letter states.

    “We know that it’s going to be maybe difficult for an evacuation, but what we need is mostly the moral support from our government. We also need physical support such as surgical masks, we need food and water,” it adds.

  • Ethiopia coronavirus suspects test negative

    Four Ethiopian citizens suspected of having contracted coronavirus have tested negative, the country’s ministry of health said on Thursday.

    The blood samples of the four were sent to a laboratory in South Africa for further investigation on Tuesday, it added.

    After further investigation, they came back negative.

    There are still no confirmed cases of the virus in Africa. A suspected case in Ivory Coast has also tested negative, as we reported earlier.

Wednesday, 29 January

  • The World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief says China is taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge” because of the virus outbreak, the Associated Press reports.

    Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) health emergencies programme at a news conference in Geneva on the coronavirus situation Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    Dr Michael Ryan said the epidemic remains centred in the city of Wuhan and in Hubei province but that information is being updated and is changing by the hour. Many of those affected experience only a mild illness and estimated that the death rate is at about 2%, he said. The death rate for SARS, a related virus, was about 10%.

    However, the few instances of the new virus spreading between people in countries beyond China, including Germany, are of great concern, Ryan added. He said that is part of the reason why the UN health agency’s director-general has reconvened a coronavirus expert committee to meet Thursday. It will assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

    Ryan made his comments to reporters on Wednesday after returning from a trip to Beijing to discuss the new virus with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government leaders.

    To date, about 99% of the nearly 6,000 cases are in China.

  • The World Health Organization’s emergency committee will meet on Thursday, the third time in a week, to evaluate whether the new coronavirus spreading from China constitutes an international emergency, the WHO said.

    “The committee will advise the director general on whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), and what recommendations should be made to manage it,” the WHO said in a statement issued in Geneva before a news briefing by senior WHO expert Mike Ryan on his return from China.

    The emergency committee, composed of 16 independent experts, twice last week declined to declare a global emergency. But today, the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who recently returned from a trip to China, tweeted that he would reconvene the committee to discuss whether such a declaration was now warranted.

  • Nigeria closes shop over coronavirus seafood fears

    The consumer protection agency in Nigeria says it has closed down a Chinese-owned supermarket selling “illegally imported seafood and meat” in the capital, Abuja, over ongoing fears about the spread of coronavirus.

    The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) said they made the discovery during a “surprise” inspection.

    The agency said that many of the products it found in the supermarket had irregular or expired dates.

    The FCCPC tweeted photos of the operation:

    The goods were reportedly stored in a hidden area of the supermarket.

    The new coronavirus is believed to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at a seafood market in China’s Wuhan city.

  • Mozambique suspends visas for travellers from China

    The Mozambican government has suspended issuing visas upon arrival to travellers from China in order curb the spread of coronavirus.

    The decision was taken at cabinet meeting held on Tuesday.

    Minister of Justice Helena Kida said the measure was temporary.

    Mozambican students studying in China have requested to be evacuated from the country until the outbreak of the deadly virus is controlled.

    It is unclear whether they will be allowed back in the country.

    There are several suspected coronavirus cases that have been reported in Kenya, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast.

  • ‘No plans to evacuate Kenyans from China’

    Kenya’s ambassador to China has said the government has no plan to evacuate citizens in China’s city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

    “The option for evacuation should not be an immediate concern for now,” Sarah Serem, who is back in Kenya, told a local TV station.

    Other countries have been making plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, but Ms Serem said China was in a better position to deal with the virus, the Star newspaper reports.

    There are several suspected coronavirus cases in Africa:

    • Kenya: A student, who had been studying in Wuhan, is quarantined at a hospital in the capital, Nairobi, after arriving in the country on Tuesday. The results of tests to determine whether he is infected with coronavirus will be known by the end of Wednesday.
    • Ethiopia: Four Ethiopians, among them three students who had been in Wuhan, are in isolation at a hospital in the capital, Addis Ababa. The junior health minister tweeted on Tuesday that initial results tested negative, but blood samples had been sent to South Africa to confirm the results.
    • Ivory Coast: A student, who returned Ivory Coast from Beijing on Saturday, is undergoing further tests after showing flu-like symptoms.

Tuesday, 28 January

  • Global warning

    Health workers disinfecting a residence in Ruichang, China, in Jiangxi Province. The coronavirus outbreak began in the neighboring province of Hubei. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday China was sure of defeating the “devil” coronavirus, in comments carried by Chinese state television.

    Xi spoke after he met the World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in Beijing to discuss how to protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the virus and “possible” evacuation alternatives, a WHO spokesman said.

    State television quoted Xi as saying:

    The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide. China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes the WHO participation in virus prevention … China is confident of winning the battle against the virus.

    A WHO panel of 16 independent experts twice last week declined to declare an international emergency. Traditionally, the WHO is reluctant to antagonise or ostracise countries dealing with epidemics for fear of undermining future willingness to report cases of infectious disease outbreaks.

  • Kenya investigating suspected coronavirus case

    The Kenyan student was admitted to hospital after exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms

    A Kenyan student from China with symptoms similar to those of the deadly coronavirus has been quarantined at the national referral hospital in the capital, Nairobi.

    The hospital’s Communication Manager Hezekiel Gikambi has told the BBC that the patient had arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport early Tuesday morning on a Kenya Airways flight from Guangzhou, China, and was rushed to the hospital.

    This is the first suspected case in Kenya and the second in Africa.

    The Ministry of Health is yet to release an official statement.

  • The academic pubilsher Wiley has compiled 54 research articles relating to the coronavirus, listed them on a single page, and has made them free to read for the next few months, as the world battles to contain the outbreak.

    Here is Wiley’s announcement:

    Wiley has identified 54 articles related to the coronavirus and is providing free access to this research to support outbreak relief efforts in China and other countries. These important pieces of literature will remain free until April 2020, with the window of time extended as needed. Newly published articles related to coronavirus will immediately be free to access during this time period, and will be posted to the coronavirus research page.

    Access to 54 medical and scientific articles includes research from the Journal of Medical Virology, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, Zoonoses and Public Health and many more.

  • The coronavirus outbreak could last several months and its course is unpredictable, with many thousands more people likely to have been affected than official figures suggest, according to Dr Jennifer Rohn, a specialist in cell biology at University College London. 

    In an interview with the PA Media news agency, Rohn said it was possible the UK already has cases of coronavirus that have not been detected. “It is possible that somebody has slipped through the net,” she said. “The symptoms are incredibly common to lots of other things that aren’t harmful at all.”

    But she added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a couple of cases soon.”

    According to Rohn, the virus was spreading more quickly than Sars but was less deadly. She said it was difficult to know how long the outbreak would last, adding: “It is hard to predict but, certainly, the cat is out of the bag.

    “We don’t know the full picture – they are running very short on diagnostic kits in China – and the truth is we don’t know where all the people are who are infected.” 

    It was likely far more thousands of people are infected than the cases confirmed in China, she said.

    Dr Rohn said it was possible the virus could last several months but it could also end as the seasons change. “Some of these respiratory viruses are seasonal – there could be a peak and then there’s a lull,” she said. “We may have some breathing space but to be honest we don’t know yet.”

  • There have now been 45 confirmed cases in 13 countries outside of China, with no deaths so far, the WHO’s spokesman, Christian Lindmeier, told a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

    Reuters reports:

    The WHO said a case in Vietnam involved human-to-human transmission outside China and a Japanese official has said there was a suspected case of human-to-human transmission there, too.

    Andreas Zapf, the president of Bavaria’s office for health and food safety, said on Tuesday the person infected was 33 years old and had come into contact with a Chinese woman on 21 January.

    Zapf said the woman was from Shanghai but her parents, who are from the Wuhan region, had visited her a few days earlier.

    He added that she had arrived in Germany on 19 January, appearing not to have any symptoms, but began to feel ill on her flight home on 23 January. She sought medical treatment after landing and tested positive for coronavirus.

    When that information was relayed back to the German company, a male employee said he felt like he had flu over the weekend and was on Monday advised to get medical treatment.

    The head doctor at the clinic where the man is being treated told a news conference the patient was awake and responsive and he did not think the man’s life was at risk.

    Bavaria’s health ministry said people who had been in contact with the man had been informed of possible symptoms, hygiene measures and transmission channels.

  • Ethiopia quarantines four over coronavirus fears

    Dr Lia Tadesse (R) spoke to reporters about the cases earlier

    Four people with suspected coronavirus have been put into isolation in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, the BBC’s Bizuwork Olana reports.

    Since last Wednesday, all passengers arriving from China are being screened at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport to check for infections.

    At a press conference in Addis Ababa, Dr Lia Tadesse, a junior health minister, and other officials said all four of the suspected cases were Ethiopian nationals.

    Three of them were students who had travelled back from various universities near Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak.

    Health officials say blood samples are to being sent to South Africa for further investigation.

    To date Ethiopian Airlines has screened more than 22,000 passengers for symptoms of the deadly virus.

    More than 100 people have now died in China, with confirmed infections surging to more than 4,500.

    The virus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms seem to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, some people can experience shortness of breath and need hospital treatment.

    The virus itself is a new, or “novel” coronavirus – a family that normally affects animals.

  • Quarantined Kenyan student travelled from Wuhan

    The student who was quarantined earlier on Tuesday at a hospital in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, with suspected coronavirus, had travelled from Wuhan – the Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak.

    Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said the patient, a male Kenyan, had flown via Guangzhou in China and the Thai capital, Bangkok.

    Health officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport noted that he had a high fever – and he is now being kept in isolation at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

    The results of tests to determine whether he is infected with coronavirus will be known by the end of Wednesday.

    The health ministry said Kenya Airways had been asked to contact all passengers on the flight, requesting that they present themselves to the nearest health facility for a check-up.


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