As countries across the globe respond to the outbreak of the coronavirus, attention is shifting to the African continent where Nigeria this week reported the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the region.Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, was quick to point out that the government had been anticipating this scenario.”I wish to assure all Nigerians that we’ve been beefing up our preparedness and capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China,” Ehanire said at a press conference in Lagos on Friday.
It isn’t the only country to do so. Faced with two undeniable realities — frequent air traffic between Africa and China, and a weak health care infrastructure — health officials have been implementing precautionary measures across several countries for at least a month.African-China air travel poses concernThe first suspected case of coronavirus was reported in Kenya at the end of January. Shortly after, the World Health Organization announced it would be ramping up efforts to ready countries, especially those with “either direct links or a high volume of travel to China.”The WHO’S regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, went on to point out that 13 countries in particular, including Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, were the top priorities for screening.According to research by Quartz, annual direct flights from China to Africa expanded from an average of less than one per day in 2010 to an average of eight per day in 2019. An increase in trade and investment — even seeing small entrepreneurs fly to China for goods — is behind this trend.
With an eye to the coronavirus risk, screenings of passengers at airports and other ports of entry have since been implemented in many countries, according to research published this week in the medical journal The Lancet.