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None of Africa’s cases come from China cities


A medical practitioner demonstrates how the Nakuru Level Five Hospital is prepared to handle coronavirus. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

When the first case of the novel coronavirus broke out in late December, the immediate worry was the impact on the African continent due to its close links to China.

None of the cases reported in Africa so far have come from China but from Europe, with the most recent cases being from the US and Japan.

“Europe has now become the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said yesterday.

More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.

Yesterday, Kenya confirmed its first case of the virus in a woman who had traveled from the US through London. Ethiopia also confirmed its first case from a Japanese national.

Africa’s first confirmed case was only recorded on February 14, 2020 in Egypt, months after the coronavirus had spread to parts of Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the US.

As a result, countries such as Kenya and Uganda placed travel bans on counties affected by Covid--19 such as Spain, Italy, Iran, France and China

The first case of coronavirus in Togo came from a 42-year-old patient who had recently arrived from a trip to Benin, Germany, France and Turkey.

Mathias Altmann, an epidemiologist at the Bordeaux School of Public Health and a co-author of a study looking at African preparedness and vulnerability to Covid-19 importations told France 24 that Africa’s low-travel exposure to China had protected it from the worst.

Most at risk

“One of them (reasons for the relatively low number of Covid-19 cases in Africa) is Africa’s low-travel exposure to China compared to Europe, which is around one Africa-China travel exchange to every 10 Europe-China travel exposures,” he said.

Since then, he said, the situation has changed as the virus spread globally, with a pandemic that exposes Africa to importations of the virus from Europe.

Studies done by epidemiologists from Europe had listed Egypt, Algeria and Republic of South Africa as the countries most at risk of importing the virus to Africa due to high trade exchanges with China.

The three countries were also listed among those with the capacity to detect and contain the virus. Other countries as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya, were found to have a lower risk of virus importation but the medical standards were lower, raising fears of the non-detection of possible imported cases.

Nanjala Nyabola, a writer and political analyst, said Africa had been spared the worst because people did not travel the continent frequently.

“People forget that Africa gets a fraction of the global intercontinental travel traffic. It’s more likely that infected people are less likely to visit Africa,” she said in an opinion posted on her Twitter account.

Europe or West was Africa’s main vulnerability to the virus because there was little to no scrutiny to passengers coming to Africa, she said.

“The presumption is that diseases come from Africa not to Africa, so the scrutiny cuts one way. This vulnerability made this turn of events almost inevitable,” she said.

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