Coronavirus Live Updates: Nigeria Confirms First Case in Sub-Saharan Africa

Coronavirus Live Updates: Nigeria Confirms First Case in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria on Friday confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country, raising fears of how the disease could wreak havoc in Africa’s most populous nation and across the continent.

The case was confirmed by the Federal Ministry of Health and was the first confirmed infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

The health ministry said the patient was an Italian citizen who returned on Feb. 25 to Lagos, the country’s largest city, after visiting Milan. The Nigerian government said in a statement that the unnamed patient was “clinically stable,” and did not have “serious symptoms” and was being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

Despite the steady number of flights and the growing relationship between China and African countries, the only previously confirmed infections on the continent had been in Egypt and Algeria.

“I wish to assure all Nigerians that have we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case,” Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s minister of health, said in a statement.

The steady global march of the new coronavirus outbreak transformed into a fierce gallop over the past 48 hours, as a dozen countries recorded their first confirmed cases and the world’s leading health official warned of a coming pandemic.

“This virus has pandemic potential,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization on Thursday. “We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it.”

  • Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.

The warning came hours before the first case was confirmed on Friday in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.

More than 83,000 people in at least 47 countries have been infected. More new cases have been recently reported outside China, where the outbreak began in December, than within in the country. China enforced a lock down of 700 million people to control the spread of the virus.

Japan closed its schools for at least a month. Iran canceled Friday Prayers in major cities. Saudi Arabia barred pilgrims from its holiest sites.

“This is not a time for fear,” Dr. Tedros said. But markets panicked anyway.

Global markets looked set to tumble for a seventh consecutive day on Friday, after the S&P 500 fell 4.4 percent on Thursday, the worst single-day slide for the benchmark since August 2011.

As new cases emerged in countries as diverse as Nigeria and Norway, the bulk of the infections outside China centered on three hot spots — South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Dr. Tedros called the moment a “decisive point” in combatting the epidemic. “This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now.”

Global markets looked set to tumble for a seventh consecutive day on Friday. Markets in Tokyo were down about 3 percent early in the day, while shares in Shanghai and Hong Kong opened about 2 percent lower.

Futures markets suggested worries might ease later Friday, but sentiment has tended to worsen later in the trading day, particularly as the virus’s spread has accelerated in Europe.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 4.4 percent, the worst single-day slide for the market since August 2011. The benchmark index fell more than 10 percent in just over a week, reflecting rising fears over the coronavirus spreading quickly around the world.

Stocks in Europe and Asia were also hard hit on Thursday.

The sell-off came after infection figures in Europe and the Middle East continued to soar and after public health officials in the United States and Germany said new patients in each country had no known connection to others with the illness. That complicates efforts to track the virus, isolate infected people and keep the virus from spreading further.

The speed of the slump has been stunning, with the S&P 500 falling more than 10 percent from its Feb. 19 high, a drop that Wall Street labels a market correction to suggest the decline is more significant than a few days of downbeat trading.

The last time stocks in the United States fell more than 10 percent was late 2018, when investors worried that the trade war and rising interest rates might tip the U.S. economy into a recession. The Dow Jones industrial average also fell into a correction on Thursday, as did shares in London.

Federal government health workers were not given proper medical training or protective gear when they were sent to assist Americans who had been quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

Staff members entered quarantine areas at Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base in California, interacted with the people who were in isolation and then moved freely around and off the bases, the complaint said.

The whistle-blower, described as a senior leader at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at least one worker stayed in a nearby hotel and left California on a commercial flight.

Many of the health workers were unaware of the need to test their temperatures three times a day, the person said. The complaint was submitted to the Office of the Special Counsel, and a portion was obtained by The New York Times.

The employees were not given training in safety protocols until five days after they were ordered into quarantined areas, including a hangar where evacuees from coronavirus hot zones in China and elsewhere were being received, the whistle-blower said.

The first U.S. case of coronavirus infection in a patient with no known risk factors — travel to a hot zone or contact with another person known to be infected — emerged this week near Travis Air Force Base.

In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged the complaint, saying, “We take all whistle-blower complaints very seriously.”

The stands didn’t fill and the crowd didn’t roar, but there was an important soccer match scheduled in Milan, Italy, on Thursday so Internazionale, the home team, and Ludogorets, the visitors from Bulgaria, set aside their fears about the coronavirus and dutifully went about playing each other.

Italian health officials had set the bizarre stage for the game by ordering the stadium closed to spectators. In Italy, where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases soared past 600 this week, the authorities have restricted public gatherings in an attempt the slow the spread of the outbreak.

But the Europa League schedule was inflexible, and so the round-of-32 game went on, with only the players’ shouts, the coaches’ instructions and the referee’s whistle as a soundtrack.

New York City officials said on Thursday they had a possible coronavirus patient and were sending a sample for testing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The patient had respiratory symptoms and had recently traveled in Italy, which has emerged as a hub of the coronavirus, health officials said.

Health officials said the patient was under 50, but provided few other biographical details. This was the first suspected case in New York City since the C.D.C. expanded its testing criteria to account for the spread of the virus in a number of countries beyond China, including Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

New York City has had no confirmed cases of the virus so far. Seven patients had previously been deemed potential cases, only to be ruled out after testing.

Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Abdi Latif Dahir, Andrew Das, Jamal Jordan, Heather Casey, Joseph Goldstein, Jesse McKinley and Ian Austen.

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