Egypt confirms first coronavirus case in Africa

Friday February 14 2020

Workers manufacture hand sanitizer at a factory

Workers manufacture hand sanitizer at a factory in Hanoi on February 14, 2020 amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. AFP PHOTO  


Egypt's health ministry on Friday announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in Africa.
The sufferer was not Egyptian, the ministry said in a statement, without specifying the nationality.

"The ministry has taken preventative measures and is monitoring the patient... who is stable," said health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed.
Egyptian authorities had notified the World Health Organization and the patient been placed in quarantined isolation in hospital.
The death toll from the epidemic virus has neared 1,400 cases, almost exclusively in China where it was first identified.

Deep trade links with China and often overstretched healthcare systems have raised concerns about the capacity of African countries to respond to an outbreak.
Earlier this month, Egypt suspended all flights on its national carrier to China. They will remain grounded until the end of the month.
Three hundred and one Egyptians were evacuated from Wuhan, epicentre of the virus in China, and have remained in quarantine for 14 days.

Uganda to send Shs200m upkeep to Ugandan students in China

Meanwhile, Uganda government plans to send $61,800 (about Shs220m) as upkeep to 105 Ugandan students stranded in China following the outbreak of coronavirus.
Presenting a statement in Parliament on behalf of the Prime Minister yesterday, Dr Ruth Jane Aceng, the Health minister, said government for now has opted against evacuating the students from China’s Wuhan city.
She said it is safer to keep persons in Wuhan city from the public view for now as they monitor the health situation.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware about the challenges the students are facing as regards their welfare. As such, it is in the process of wiring $61,800 to support them…,” Dr Aceng said.

According to the minister, funds can be sent directly to the students via their mobile phones since purchases in China are made online and delivery is at people’s addresses.
Uganda has 105 students in universities in Wuhan city; 65 of whom are government-sponsored.
But Dr Aceng yesterday revealed that Uganda does not have the capacity to handle a coronavirus outbreak since the virus spreads very fast.
“Does Uganda have the capacity to handle a coronavirus outbreak in terms of specialised isolation facilitates with specialised equipment? No… The Ebola threat from the DRC is still ongoing since August 2018 and there is yellow fever in Buliisa, Moyo, Maracha. The health workforce is also very thin on the ground,” Dr Aceng said.
Dr Aceng said the Chinese government has promised to take care of the Ugandan students and ensure that those in university halls of residence are given food while those renting privately procure their own food.


The minister also revealed that the process of chartering a plane to China to evacuate the students is costly. “The cost of chartering a plane to Beijing varies between $500,000 (Shs1.8b) and $1m (Shs3.5b). Transportation between Beijing and Wuhan city is not clear currently but can be discussed with the Chinese government,” Dr Aceng said.

Mak ready to research on coronavirus

Relatedly, Makerere University together with the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) have reached out to partners in efforts to research on a vaccine for coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the university said it has now reached out to other partners to collaborate on a vaccine.
“Although there is no approved treatment or vaccine for 2019nCoV, Makerere University through IDI and its partners has capability to conduct clinical research for vaccines and therapeutics prior to or during outbreaks,” the statement reads in part.
“With support from United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an international non-governmental organisation called Resolve to Save Lives, IDI is supporting implementation of national preparedness plans for 2019nCoV,” it adds.
Dr Andrew Kambugu, the director of the research programme at IDI, said if partnerships are granted, some aspects of the research will be done at the university. “We are beginning to have discussions with partners because we are research organisation to begin to pave the way to do some work related to coronavirus,” Dr Kambugu said.
“The important thing is a Ugandan institution is in position to partner with Western institutions to see what can be done for the vaccine,” he added.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Kamurungi and Nobert Atukunda