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Zimbabwe Records Second Coronavirus Case

Police officer shows a visitor how to disinfect his hands against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The Zimbabwean government says a second person has tested positive for coronavirus, a few hours after it announced the first case of COVID-19 in the southern African nation.

In a statement, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo, identified the person as a Harare resident, who is currently in isolation. The person visited a nation with high coronavirus cases.

A man identified as a Caucasian was the first person to test positive for coronavirus in Zimbabwe. He recently visited Britain and was quarantined as soon as he landed home in Victoria Falls.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Nelson Chamisa says President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government appears to be failing to follow protocols laid down by the World Health Organization in tackling the disease as the president is currently visiting Namibia without taking the necessary measures to protest himself and his entourage.

MDC director of communications, Luke Tamborinyoka, said Mnangagwa’s government has no clue in curbing coronavirus “as the president himself is not even observing some simple ways of preventing the spread of the disease like self-isolation and social distancing.”

But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo defended the president saying he is on national duty in Namibia.

Mnangagwa attended the inauguration of President Hage Geingob’s second term, a few hours after his country reported two cases of coronavirus.

According to several international media entities, Africa’s cases of the coronavirus rose above 1,000 on Saturday while two heads of state appeared to defy their own travel restrictions to attend another president’s inauguration.

Angola announced its first cases, meaning at least 40 of Africa’s 54 countries are now affected. Congo reported its first death; Burkina Faso reported two new ones. Somalia said it's lifting its ban on international flights for two days so stranded citizens can come home. And Ethiopia’s electoral authorities discussed the virus’ effect on a major national election later this year.

Angola closed its air, land and sea borders this week, but Namibian media showed President Joao Lourenco at the inauguration of Namibian President Hage Geingob. Also in attendance was President Mokgweetsi Masisi of neighboring Botswana, which this week suspended international travel by all government employees.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa also was there. He announced a national disaster even before his country confirmed its first virus case on Friday.

Burkina Faso now has the most virus deaths of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. The West African nation has one of the highest caseloads on the continent with 64.

Several government ministers in Burkina Faso have tested positive, including the minister of foreign affairs. On Friday, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore announced the country's two international airports would close for two weeks with the exception for military and cargo.

Burkina Faso is one of Africa’s most fragile states with a growing humanitarian crisis caused by attacks linked to Islamic extremists. More than 130 health centers have closed, affecting more than 1.5 million people, the government and aid groups say.

According to a government response plan seen by The Associated Press, emergency teams aren't trained for a respiratory disease outbreak and don't have appropriate protective gear.

There's also insufficient screening at borders. None of Burkina Faso’s 44 high-flow entry points have the needed personal protective equipment, and only 23% have coronavirus screening devices.

Jerry-Jonas Mbasha, cluster coordinator for the World Health Organization in Burkina Faso, said he was “much worried about what might happen in the next one week, two weeks from now.”

Most people only experience minor flu-like symptoms from the coronavirus and recover within a few weeks, but the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear well. It can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, in some patients, particularly those with underlying health problems.

More than 275,000 cases have been confirmed globally, including over 11,000 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. At least 88,000 people have recovered.

In Nigeria, which just three weeks ago announced the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa, authorities said that first patient, a man who had traveled from Italy, was now fit to go home. Meanwhile, Africa's most populous country said it now had cases in the capital, Abuja.

In Kenya, health officials continued to disinfect crowded markets in the capital, Nairobi, trying to stop the virus’ spread.

“It’s for the sake of us, it’s for the sake of the country,” said Simon Kimani, public health council chairman.


Anna reported from Johannesburg. Farai Mutsaka in Harare, Zimbabwe; Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia; and Idi Ali Juma in Nairobi, Kenya contributed.