African Airports Quarantine Suspect Virus Cases

 - January 30, 2020, 10:54 AM

Major African airports reported that they have quarantined passengers originating from China and suspected of carrying the Wuhan coronavirus.

Ethiopian health officials on Tuesday announced that they have quarantined four passengers from Wuhan, China, at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport after one of them showed symptoms of cold.

Ethiopian state minister of health Liya Tadesse told a press conference that the four Ethiopian nationals study at Wuhan University. Tadesse said though the suspects tested negative for the new coronavirus, officials have sent the samples to South Africa for confirmation.   

Ethiopian Airlines operates 40 weekly flights between Addis Ababa and five destinations in China (Beijing, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai). On average, Ethiopian transports 4,000 Chinese passengers between Africa and China every day. Tadesse said authorities have deployed an adequate number of health officials at Addis Ababa International Airport to provide proper screening.             

Kenya reported its first suspected case of coronavirus on Tuesday, when a Kenya Airways passenger who arrived at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Tuesday afternoon on a flight from Guangzhou displayed flu-like symptoms. Health authorities have quarantined the patient at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

Kenyan port authorities began increasing surveillance at all ports of entry and measuring passenger body temperatures as early as last week. According to Kenya Airways, the standing procedure requires passengers “to undergo quarantine screening by the health authorities before being cleared to board any aircraft.”

A 34-year-old student who arrived on a flight from Beijing to the Ivory Coast on Sunday is the first suspected case of the Wuhan virus in Africa. Eight flights on average operate directly between China and African nations per day.

Nigeria also took pre-emptive steps early on by implementing “exit screening measures” for passengers entering the country from Wuhan and mobilizing a task force through the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) aimed at assessing and managing the risk of importation to Nigeria.

Micheal Yao, Africa program manager for emergency response at the World Health Organization, said in addition to working closely with health authorities to set protocols and implement emergency preparedness procedures, the WHO has “sent guidance to all ministers in the Africa region to highlight issues that they have to deal with.”