A continent’s proactiveness in the case of a global epidemic

As the Coronavirus rages on, African countries are taking different steps geared at prevention.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China has reached 1,770 as of February 17, up by 105 from the previous day, according to the country’s National Health Commission. At least 100 of the new deaths were from the province of Hubei, the epicentre of the epidemic. Across the country, there were 2,048 new confirmed infections, about 1,933 from Hubei alone, pushing the new total to 70,548.

In proactive steps to prevent the spread of the virus christened COVID-19, countries across the African continent have begun to take various measures to protect their nationals. Considering the fact that a case of the coronavirus was recently reported in Egypt, there is no such thing as being too careful in these dangerous times.

In Ethiopia, suspected cases of the virus have all turned out to be negative after rigorous tests. However, there are still high levels of vigilance at the country’s Bole Airport, and though regular flights to China’s major provinces are still being operated, travellers are frequently being screened.

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China plays host to many African students, and as a matter of fact Africans make up the second-highest population of foreign students in China. Since the outbreak of the virus, thousands of Africans have been at the mercy of a city-wide lockdown in various provinces – particularly the Wuhan province which is home to over 4,000 African students – with food and water being in short supply. Many of these students feel trapped.

The Kenyan government has made a decision not to evacuate its citizens. However, it has suspended all flights to and from China, with a view to precaution. On its part, Morocco is making plans to repatriate about 100 of its nationals from Wuhan. Algeria is also set to evacuate about 36 of its citizens.

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Mozambique has suspended the issuance of visas to people arriving from China. South Africa, on the other hand, has communicated that it would not be evacuating its nationals.

More than a few of these African youths feel trapped in Wuhan, with many expressing a strong desire to leave China until the virus is contained. Movement is heavily restricted, as is the use of social media. Nationals of countries like Tanzania have tried reaching out to their countries’ embassies to facilitate an exit from Wuhan, but much of that has met with futility.

The arguments for and against evacuation make for fierce conversation, but the fact remains that African countries have to be wary of who is allowed to walk through the airports. Screening and testing equipment must be fully functional, and directives pertaining to quarantining must be adhered to. Africa stands a chance against the coronavirus, but there are no margins for error in warding off an epidemic of this nature.

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