Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

A man wears a protective mask outside the Yaba Mainland hospital, where an Italian citizen is being treated after developing COVID-19 symptoms, on Feb. 28, 2020.

Sunday Alamba/The Associated Press

An Italian businessman, now in quarantine in Nigeria, has been identified as the first COVID-19 case in sub-Saharan Africa, until now one of the world’s last remaining regions to have reported no cases.

The man arrived from Milan four days ago on a flight to Lagos, one of the biggest and most densely populated cities on Earth, with about 20 million people. He passed through the city’s airport undetected, without symptoms, and later became ill in neighbouring Ogun state, Nigerian authorities said.

Health authorities are now rushing to trace all of the man’s contacts on the plane and in Nigeria. They say the patient is clinically stable in a hospital in Lagos, with no serious symptoms.

Story continues below advertisement

The announcement of the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa will be a crucial test for the region after weeks of intense preparations. African countries could be particularly vulnerable to the disease because of fragile health-care systems, porous borders and close links to China.

A few weeks ago, only two African countries – South Africa and Senegal – had laboratories to test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Since then, many African countries have raced to prepare labs and, today, more than half the continent’s 54 countries are able to perform the test.

Two cases were detected in Egypt and Algeria within the past two weeks, although the patient in Egypt has recovered and has tested negative for the virus, Egyptian authorities said.

South Africa warned Friday that it expects the virus to arrive there. “Given these recent developments globally and in Africa, it is not unlikely that we will have importation of COVID-19 to South Africa,” the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a statement.

It also disclosed that two South African workers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan had tested positive for the coronavirus. They are “in good care” under treatment in Japan, the institute said.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, was praised for defeating an Ebola outbreak in 2014, when an air traveller arrived in Lagos with the virus and infected 20 other people. Nine people died, including four health workers, but the outbreak was rapidly contained by officials who traced and monitored hundreds of contacts. The World Health Organization later said Nigeria had conducted “world-class epidemiological detective work.”

On Friday, Nigerian health experts were urging the country to avoid spreading rumours or panic. “Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic,” Nigerian Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

A multisectoral preparation group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, has “immediately activated its national Emergency Operations Centre,” the Health Minister said. “We have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China.”

The WHO has already identified Nigeria as one of 13 high-priority African countries and has sent experts to the country to help with its preparations. The 13 countries were deemed high-priority because of their large volume of travel to and from China.

“We can’t build walls against viruses,” said Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, at a media briefing Friday after the Italian patient was identified.

“We are working hard to identify and monitor all likely contacts of the confirmed case to reduce spread of the virus. The patient is quite responsive and able to recall his interactions.”

The WHO has said the coronavirus threat in Africa is “considerable” because of the fragile health-care systems on the continent.

“No country should assume they won’t get coronavirus,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

Story continues below advertisement

Based on their air-travel links to China, the highest-risk African countries include Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia, according to a study in the medical journal The Lancet.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Follow related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies