How Africa is fighting coronavirus

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The World Health Organisation warns COVID-19 could overwhelm strained public health systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Here is a selection of measures countries are taking to prepare for the virus and limit its spread.

SOUTH AFRICA

With more cases than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is barring entry to foreign travellers coming from or transiting through high-risk countries including Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom and China, according to an advisory issue by the foreign ministry.

Travellers who arrived from these countries since mid-February must report for testing. Those arriving from medium-risk countries – Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will undergo high intensity screening.

South Africans are advised to cancel or postpone non-essential foreign travel. Government ordered schools to close early for the Easter break and will prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people.

NIGERIA

Africa’s most populous nation stepped up surveillance and is preparing for an influx of patients.

Lagos, the biggest city with some 20 million people, could handle 2 000 cases, said Bamidele Mutiu, who heads a regional biosafety team. To do this, they need to use two camps previously housing people displaced by violence, he said.

Authorities are checking the temperature of all people arriving at Nigerian airports, ports and land borders.

Those coming from high-risk countries such as China, Iran, Italy and Spain are asked to self-isolate for 14 days, said Tarik Mohammed, a technical advisor at the Niger Centre for Disease Control. If they develop symptoms, a laboratory team will collect a sample for testing.

KENYA

The East African country is suspending travel from any nation with reported COVID-19 cases.

Only Kenyan citizens, foreigners with residence permits and UN workers will be allowed in, provided they proceed on self-quarantine, government said.

Schools and universities are closing and public minibuses provide hand sanitiser.

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopian Airlines said on its website medics at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, a key regional transit hub, carry out health screenings 24/7.

The government in the Horn of Africa country closed schools nationwide and offered to transport people on government buses to ease congestion on public transport.

RWANDA

The East African country is flooding its capital, Kigali, with portable sinks for hand-washing at bus stops, restaurants, banks and shops. Schools, universities, churches and courts are closed nationwide. Some flights are suspended.

CAMEROON

From Wednesday, Cameroon will close land, air and sea borders indefinitely, government said in statement. International flights will be grounded, with the exception of cargo planes. Schools and restaurants will shut and gatherings of more than 50 people are banned.

LIBERIA

The West African country is applying lessons learned fighting a devastating Ebola outbreak in 2014-15.

“We were one of the first countries to start enhanced screening at the airport on January 25,” said Mosoka P. Fallah, acting director general of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia.

More than 200 people have been trained as field epidemiologists and check for diseases in all 90 districts, said Tolbert Nyenswah, senior research associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States and former incident manager for Liberia’s Ebola response.

“If there is a case of a suspected disease, a sample is sent to a lab and tested.”

There are hand-washing stations at public places including stores, shops, schools, hospitals, restaurants and government offices.

SENEGAL

Has been taking passenger temperatures since January 28 and asks for contact details, so officials can reach them if someone else on the plane tests positive, a spokesman for Dakar airport said.

GHANA

Has implemented most stringent measures with a mandatory 14 days quarantine for people arriving from abroad. Travellers from countries with over 200 cases of coronavirus are barred from entering the country unless they are Ghanaian citizens or residents.

MAURITANIA

After confirming its first case on March 13, the West African country closed the international airport, suspended teaching in schools and universities and banned weekly markets.

MADAGASCAR

One of the world’s poorest countries, the island nation suspended all flights for 30 days, a blow to tourism.