Coronavirus Is Striking Africa, as South Africa Declares ‘State of Disaster’
March 17, 2020 (EIRNS)—World Health Organization Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated in his March 16 briefing that scientists fear how the coronavirus will react when it spreads in underdeveloped nations. “So far, we have seen epidemics in countries with advanced and health systems,” he reminded people. “As the virus moves to low-income countries we are deeply concerned about the impact it could have among populations with high HIV prevalence or among malnourished children.”
That test is now upon us. On Sunday night, March 15, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in an address to the nation that he was declaring a “national disaster” over the presence of COVID-19. That allows the government to order school closures for more than 11 million schoolchildren, restrictions on travelers entering the country, and bans on meetings of more than 100 people, among other necessary measures.
South Africa only has 62 confirmed cases so far, but that number is increasing. The country has the highest number of HIV infections in the world—some 7.7 million people—and 60% of them also have tuberculosis. No one knows how the new virus will react, but South Africa’s Academy of Science recently reported that persons with HIV are eight times more likely than the general population to be admitted to hospitals for influenza-linked pneumonia, and three more times more likely to die from it.
How “social distancing” could be imposed on South Africa’s vast slums no one can imagine.
The virus is now confirmed to be present in 29 African nations reported business website Quartz today, but the total, given the limited capabilities of these nations to monitor the disease is anybody’s guess.
Kenya with only 3 confirmed cases, but, according to one 2015 paper, with only 130 intensive care beds for its 50 million people, it is also blocking entry to all travelers from countries with reported cases. Morocco, with 28 confirmed cases and 1 death, also closed its borders. Algeria, which has 48 cases, announced it would be suspending all flights to France starting today. In Tunisia, which has 20 confirmed cases, the Prime Minister has ordered the borders closed and a ban on large gatherings, including prayers in mosques. Mozambique has suspended all gatherings of 300 people or more, and all foreign travel by state officials.