By Sharon Atieno
Africa’s second case of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been confirmed. The confirmation in Algeria is the country’s first and the continent’s second following a confirmed case in Egypt.
According to a report from the Algerian health authorities, the tests carried out on an Italian adult, who arrived in the country on 17 February 2020 tested positive for coronavirus disease.
“This is the first case in the WHO African region,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The window of opportunity the continent has had to prepare for coronavirus disease is closing. All countries must ramp up their preparedness activities.”
Algeria is one of the 47 countries in the WHO African region, and one of the 13 countries which WHO has identified as a top priority for preparedness measures due to their direct links or high volume of travel to China.
Honouring their pledge to support African Union member States on a common preparedness and response strategy in an emergency meeting with African health ministers in Addis Ababa on 22 February 2020, the WHO is preparing to deploy a team of experts to Algeria to support health authorities.
WHO plays an active role in supporting countries to coordinate preparation efforts and so far has deployed more than 40 experts to ten countries to support coordination, treatment, infection, prevention and control, community engagement, surveillance and laboratory disease control. WHO has assisted countries in building their diagnostic capacity for COVID-19, and currently 26 laboratories are able to test for the new pathogen, up from just two early this month.
As of 20 February 2020, countries reported that since 22 January, 210 people have been investigated for COVID-10 in the WHO African region. 204 cases have been ruled out and six cases are still pending.