Senegal confirms first COVID-19 case


Senegal’s health minister announced the first case of coronavirus in the country, the second in sub-Saharan Africa after one confirmed in Nigeria last week.

The rapid spread of the new coronavirus increased fears of a pandemic, prompting governments to step up control measures and sending global financial markets into a dive.

The patient is a French man resident in Senegal and back from holiday in France on February 26 on an Air Senegal flight, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr told reporters.

He passed a temperature check at Dakar airport but developed a fever two days later and went to a private clinic for a check-up, the minister said. The clinic alerted authorities who quarantined him in Dakar’s Fann Hospital.

The patient was in contact with his wife and children, the minister said. It was not clear how many other people were in contact with him. Authorities are tracing other passengers on the Air Senegal flight.

As of Monday, there are over 89 000 cases of the virus globally, the majority in China, according to a Reuters tally. Outside China, it spread to 66 countries, with more than 8 800 cases and 130 deaths. Globally, the illness killed more than 3 000 people.

North African countries Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt have confirmed cases of the virus.

The risk of global spread and impact of coronavirus is now “very high”, the highest level of alarm, but containment is still possible, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Africa’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention activated its emergency operation centre on a continent where healthcare capacity is limited and early detection is vital.

The WHO identified 13 top priority countries which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China, but Senegal is not on the list.

Senegal is home to one of 26 laboratories in Africa that can test for the virus. Public announcements on state television advise people to wash hands and masked health officials conduct temperature checks at the airport while others film arriving passengers.

Before confirmation of the first case, President Macky Sall urged calm.

“The health services are taking care of the patient according to procedure recommended by WHO,” he told reporters.