The first coronavirus death in Africa has been confirmed in Egypt as cases start to spike

Where’s everyone?
Where’s everyone?
Image: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
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A 60 year-old male German tourist who arrived in Egypt a week ago has become the continent’s first Covid-19 fatality.

The tourist died yesterday (Mar. 8) after being testing positive for the virus on Friday, Egypt’s health ministry says. The patient, who refused to be moved to an isolation unit, saw his condition markedly deteriorate with breathing complications.

Amid his death, Egypt has also seen its rate of confirmed cases shoot up over the weekend as 45 people who were infected aboard a cruise ship disembarked in Luxor, a coastal city in southern Egypt. The country’s health ministry says the infected ship passengers have since been quarantined in an isolation facility. The infections bring Egypt’s confirmed case count to 48.

Across the rest of the continent, more infections are being confirmed with Algeria seeing a spike last week after nine new cases, all from one family, were discovered. North Africa may be particularly at risk of the outbreak, as their high case counts show, given the region’s proximity to Europe and ties through migration, trade and tourism.

But Sub Saharan Africa is also recording more cases too: South Africa, Cameroon and Togo have all confirmed index cases over the past four days. Nigeria has also confirmed a second case linked to its index case. There could be more to come too as Nigerian public health officials say they are experiencing “challenges” in tracking down people who may have come in contact with its index case.

The spate of the outbreak on the continent still pales in comparison with Europe and Asia where cases now number in thousands. But while Africa’s lower rate of infections and fatalities has been subject to debate, experienced public health officials attribute it to African governments being proactive with cautionary measures especially in the wake of lessons from devastating Ebola outbreaks.

But regardless, there is still significant worry that a full-blown outbreak across African countries will have devastating effects given weaker and underfunded public health systems and infrastructure on the continent.

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