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Coronavirus "lands" in East Africa as Kenya, Ethiopia record positive cases

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - East Africa becomes the latest region to record positive cases of Coronavirus, both Ethiopia and Kenya said, Friday, as the world continues to bear brunt of the pandemic which has so far affected over 130 countries.

Already, the World Health Organization [WHO] has declared the virus a pandemic, even as scientists rush against time to find a vaccination, albeit even for short-term treatment.

In Africa, Algeria and Egypt have recorded the highest number of positive cases, but countries like Senegal, Nigeria, DR Congo in the Sub-Saharan region have also joined the list, Reuters reported.

Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya's newly appointed health minister, reported the first positive case in East Africa on Friday, causing panic across the country, whose level of preparedness is "a big doubt".

A 27-year-old lady, who had recently traveled from Ohio via London, tested positive after surrendering to a Nairobi health facility, Kagwe told reporters in a press conference.

He said: "We thank her. She presented herself to the hospital. Already, we are tracing some of the people who have been in contact with her for the past few days. She has provided names."

As the lady battled her condition in a quarantine facility, President Uhuru Kenyatta held an emergency National Security Council meeting in Nairobi with respect to the pandemic.

Among others, the government banned all public gatherings, meetings besides outlining safety measures for those using public transport and other risk-prone services, authorities said.

Lia Tadesse, the newly appointed Ethiopian Health minister, also announced Ethiopia's first Coronavirus positive case, few hours after the pronouncement by the Kenyan government.

In a tweet, she said the victim, a 48-year-old Japanese woman, had arrived in Ethiopia on March 4th from Burkina Faso. She has since been isolated and is undergoing treatment, she said.

"At this point, we have identified and confirmed the first case for Ethiopia," she said in a statement on Friday.

"So we are giving the community, the public the preventive measures that we have been advising for a while now. Strengthening advice in terms of personal hygiene and also avoiding very crowded places, especially if they are feeling sick."

Despite the rapid spread of the virus, Tadesse however, insisted that "This virus is now in 134 countries. So stopping flights is not going to be a solution."

Many countries including Kenya have since suspended flights to nations that have recorded many cases, with China and Italy being the worst hit. The pandemic has a grounded economy worldwide, with a possible recession looking.

"Ethiopia has declared its first COVID19 case. I urge all to remain calm and take preventive measures in line with WHO and @FMoHealth guidelines," Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian PM said.

So far, over 130,000 people have been infected. Of those, around 65,000 have recovered while 5,000 have already died, reported the New York Times in the latest statistics.

China was the first to record positive cases in December, and it's the worst hit of all the countries. A senior foreign affairs official in Beijing blamed the US for "manufacturing" the virus.

Apart from Kenya and Ethiopia, East Africa also recorded a suspected Coronavirus death in Sudan. Somalia, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania are yet to issue an alert.


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