The emblem of WHO is seen in this photo. (File photo: Agencies)
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that it has sent coronavirus test kits to 40 countries in Africa that will be able to test for the deadly new coronavirus by the end of the week. This comes after Egypt confirmed the first case on the continent last week.
"Now they can do the test themselves within 24 to 48 hours. We are working with partners in some of the most fragile contexts, from Syria to Africa, to prepare countries for the arrival of the virus," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a media briefing on Tuesday.
WHO said most African nations have been sending samples elsewhere for testing and waiting several days for results. So far only two laboratories in the entire continent had the reagents needed to test for the virus. The laboratories, which are in Senegal and South Africa, have been handling most of the suspected cases for the whole continent, thereby causing delays.
Ghebreyesus said efforts have been put in place to ensure Africa is prepared to handle any suspected or confirmed case. He added that some countries in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, were using systems developed to test for the deadly Ebola virus to now test for the coronavirus.
"This is a great example of how investing in health systems can pay dividends for health security," Ghebreyesus said.
The first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in Africa was detected in Egypt on Feb 14, according to a joint statement by the Egypt's health ministry and WHO. The statement indicated that the affected person was a foreigner.
Egypt's health ministry said the patient had tested positive for the virus without any symptoms, as the WHO regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean said that the confirmed case in Egypt is asymptomatic and was identified as an individual who travelled to Cairo between Jan 21 and Feb 4 on a business trip.
According to the Africa Center for Disease Control, the organization has been monitoring the outbreak closely and discussing their needs with African member states. The Africa CDC also says that it has been providing guidance to member states about how to prevent infections from spreading in communities and hospitals, strengthening screening at airports and with airlines, and also providing up-to-date information via electronic messaging, social media, and conference calls to member states.
Elsewhere, a Chinese official assured people in Africa that the Chinese government is doing all it can to prevent the virus from spreading in the continent.
According to reports that appeared on China's CGTN, Guo Ce, the Economic and Commercial Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi, said on Wednesday that stringent public measures are being enforced by the Chinese government to ensure that the Chinese nationals traveling to Africa are free from the novel coronavirus.
"Businesses in China are getting back to normal, while the health sector remains highly vigilant. China's overall economic situation could be totally back on its feet in two to three months' time," Guo said.