Ethiopia Steps up Surveillance amid Coronavirus Fears

ADDIS ABEBA – Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Africa’s busiest hub, has started screening passengers from Asia, health officials said, following an outbreak of coronavirus in China.

The airport is the only port of direct entry from Asia. Dr. Ebba Abate, director-general of Ethiopian Public Health Institute, said measures had been put in place due to the risk that the virus could be imported to Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Airlines currently operates daily flights to four Chinese cities (Guangzhou, Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai) and a three-time-a-week flight to Chengdu.

“Considering the deep business ties between Ethiopia and China has, we are giving more focus on passengers coming from China,” said Dr. Ebba.

“As of Jan 22, there have been no cases of coronavirus in Ethiopia,” he said while giving a press briefing on Friday.

Dr. Ebba said isolation rooms had also been opened at the Airport for passengers suspected to have the virus. Also, St Paul and Black Lion Hospitals in the capital are prepared for any emergency cases.

“We are also cooperating with other African countries on preventing and controlling the virus,” he said.

By lunchtime on Friday, the death toll stood at 26 – out of 800 confirmed cases – and according to reports, most of these were in Hubei province in central China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus an emergency for China on Thursday but stopped short of declaring the epidemic an international concern.

“Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China,” said Tedros Adhanom, head of WHO.

While most of the cases and all of the deaths have been in China, the virus has been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the US.

By Mhret G/Kristos

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