Coronavirus now in Tanzania, Somalia as East Africa starts closures

Sunrise in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Picture: Twitter / @UsherKomugisha

The announcements from Tanzania and Somalia came as Rwanda confirmed four more cases of the virus, after reporting its first on Saturday.

Tanzania and Somalia on Monday became the latest East African countries to confirm their first cases of coronavirus, as neighbouring countries shuttered borders and schools as fears of contagion rose.

A 46-year-old Tanzanian woman tested positive for the illness after returning from Belgium on March 15, where she had been staying with a relative sick with coronavirus.

Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said the woman, who was recovering in hospital in Arusha, was not detected by temperature scanners but reported herself for testing.

“All in all, this is an imported case, and the woman is improving and continues with treatment,” she said, adding authorities would trace all the patient’s contacts since she arrived in Tanzania, and place them under quarantine.

Somalia, meanwhile, also confirmed its first case of coronavirus and announced a ban on international flights in and out of the country, starting from Wednesday.

The government had quarantined four Somalis as a precaution after they arrived from countries with coronavirus outbreaks, and one had subsequently tested positive.

“None of the quarantined individuals had shown symptoms so far, and look healthy, but the virus is present in the body of this individual,” Health Minister Fowzia Abikar Nur said in a televised address.

The travel ban will extend to cargo flights but exclude humanitarian ones, Aviation and Transport Minister Mohamed Abdulahi Omar said.

The announcements from Tanzania and Somalia came as Rwanda confirmed four more cases of the virus, after reporting its first on Saturday.

According to a health ministry statement, the new cases include a 30-year-old Rwandan man “in Kigali with no travel history”.

There is also a 34-year-old Rwandan man who arrived from South Sudan on March 6 and his brother who arrived from Fiji via the US and Qatar on March 8.

The fourth patient is a 22-year-old Ugandan who arrived from London on March 15. They are all under treatment, isolated from other patients.

Rwanda has shut schools and churches for two weeks and banned concerts and large gatherings. Its national airline Rwandair has cancelled its flights to India, Israel and China.

Ethiopia introduced its own raft of fresh restrictions on Monday, closing schools and suspending large gatherings like sporting events. The country, the most populous in the region with 100 million people, has five confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Mauritius, meanwhile, a smattering of islands in the Indian Ocean dependent on tourism, announced it would deny entry to anyone who had visited the EU, Switzerland or Britain in the past 14 days.

Previously, the restriction only applied to those who had visited China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong.

It has not recorded any positive cases so far.

“Our country is a tourist destination. Thousands of foreigners come to and transit through Mauritius. We are very exposed,” said Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

There are now 17 confirmed cases across six countries in East Africa.

Kenya, which has three cases, on Sunday announced strict measures including blocking entry to foreigners who do not have a valid resident permit and are coming from a country with a confirmed case.

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