In Burkina Faso, four government ministers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as the number of reported cases rose to 64 from 40, the highest in West Africa. The ministers of foreign affairs, mines, education, and interior have all tested positive for COVID-19.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Alpha Barry tweeted late on Friday “The rumour has become reality … I have just been notified that I have COVID-19”, referring to media reports that had speculated about his health.
Minister of Mines Oumarou Idani, Minister of Education Stanislas Ouaro and Minister of the Interior Simeon Sawadogo each confirmed their cases via Facebook posts.
A ministerial meeting was held on March 11, the government’s website shows, but it was not immediately clear if all the ministers attended.
Can the Threadbare Healthcare System Fight Covid-19?
Burkina Faso is a poor country of some 20 million people that have been struggling to deal with a swiftly deteriorating security situation. The terrible security situation has seen campaigns by multiple armed groups rendered parts of its arid territory ungovernable and forced nearly a million people to flee their homes.
International health officials worry that covid-19 could spread out of control and overwhelm its threadbare healthcare system.
The government has put measures in place to stop the spread, including closing land and air borders and banning gatherings of more than 50 people.
Last week all schools and universities in the West African country closed for the rest of the month.
But before a suspension of religious ceremonies on Friday, the central mosque in the capital, Ouagadougou, was filled with hundreds of worshippers packed together for prayers.
Burkina Faso reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 9, 10 days after the first case in sub-Saharan Africa was announced in Nigeria on February 28.
NGOs have warned that the conflict, displacement and weak health infrastructure could lead to a devastating loss of life.
Jerry-Jonas Mbasha, the cluster coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Burkina Faso said “in a best-case scenario, which is what is happening at the moment, there would be only a few cases. In a worst-case scenario, Burkina Faso could see fatality rates five to 10 times higher than the global average.”
There are reports that only 400 coronavirus test kits are available in Burkina Faso, with only three health facilities in the country able to carry out the tests – two in Ouagadougou and one in the second city of Bobo Dioulasso. Mbasha urged the international community to step in to help avoid a major crisis.
Situation Across Africa
Some 40 nations across the continent have reported more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19.
Worldwide more than 304,500 people have been diagnosed with the infection while nearly 13,000 people have died from the disease, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University in the United States.