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US expert praises Africa's preparations for virus outbreak

More than 28,000 people are known to have been infected with coronavirus worldwide.

by Daily Nation Feb 10th · 1 min read

The head of the US government's international task force on the coronavirus said on Thursday that many African countries have made “excellent progress” in preparing for an outbreak of the new disease.

“Countries in Africa have been working very hard to prepare for this sort of situation through global health security efforts,” Dr Barbara Marston, who works at the US government's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters in a teleconference.

“There has been training in every aspect of disease response, so in surveillance, in laboratory capacity, in workforce capacity, and the capacity to manage the responses to these types of situations.”

Kenya is comparatively well prepared to respond to a “biological threat,” according to a global ranking of 195 countries compiled last year by experts at Johns Hopkins University in the US.

Many African nations are grouped near the bottom of the list — with Somalia and Equatorial Guinea occupying the two lowest rungs. Kenya, however, scores higher than the global average, ahead of countries such as Russia and Iceland and just slightly below Israel.

Dr Marston acknowledged that there are grounds for concern about the potential impact of the virus on Africa.

Although no cases have been confirmed on the Africa continent, it is feared that the coronavirus could spread quickly and widely in Africa due to the less developed health infrastructures in many countries.

Africa is also home to an estimated one million nationals of China, which is where the disease originated and where its toll has been highest.

More than 28,000 people are known to have been infected with the virus worldwide. At least 630 have died, nearly all in China.

“The resources are more limited in Africa and a response would be more challenging, but there has been excellent progress in many settings,” Dr Marston said on Thursday.

She did not respond to a Nation reporter's query regarding the wisdom of Ethiopia's decision to allow its national airline to continue some service to and from China.

President Kenyatta, speaking in Washington on Wednesday, said he hopes Ethiopia will “come to terms” with the need to take the strongest possible precautions regarding the virus' threat to Africa.

last updated: 2020-02-10@01:02