• Nigeria was able to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014
  • The first virus case in Nigeria is an Italian man who arrived from Milan
  • Tens of thousands of Chinese live in Kenya



Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, making it the first such reported infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

The confirmed case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and flew into Lagos on Tuesday from Milan, a city in the grip of the virus. The patient is under care at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

"The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms," said Nigeria’s health minister Emmanuel Osagie Ehanire.

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control said in a statement that it has “already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria.”

Nigeria has upgraded its medical systems since the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014. At that time, Nigerian health officials were widely praised for reacting quickly to the outbreak and minimizing fatalities.

“Nigeria has dramatically improved its ability to manage the outbreak of a major pandemic since the Ebola scare in west Africa in 2014,” said Folasade Ogunsola, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Lagos. “Any of the lessons from keeping the country free of Ebola have informed the steps taken since the news of the coronavirus epidemic first broke.”

However, Nigeria, a crowded, chaotic country of some 190 million people is still viewed as highly vulnerable to health crises like the virus outbreak. Lagos itself is a massive metropolis of 20 million.

Infrastructure is crumbling, corruption is widespread and many doctors have left the country for higher pay elsewhere.

"I can tell you that in Nigeria we have… plans as part of preparedness for this epidemic," deputy health minister Olorumibe Mamora said earlier.

Mamora noted that quarantine centers have been set up in Lagos and the capital Abuja – with others to be built in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt and in Kano in the north.

"We would do everything we need to do if the situation arises in respect of the safety of our citizens," he added.

Nigeria's Center for Disease Control also indicated that three laboratories in the country have the capacity to diagnose the virus.

In Kenya, on Friday, the country’s High Court has ordered the temporary suspension of flights from China in the wake of public anger over the arrival on Wednesday of a China's Southern Airlines aircraft in Nairobi.

It was the first direct flight from China to Kenya in two weeks.

Many Kenyans condemned the government for permitting the 239 passengers on that airplane into the country. The passengers were screened at the airport, cleared by authorities and ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi also said it was cooperating with Kenyan health officials to monitor all passengers from China.

Ordinary Kenyans remained angry, fearing the country’s inability to cope with an epidemic.

On social media, a Kenyan named Boniface Mwangi addressed the country’s leader Uhuru Kenyatta. "Does Uhuru love this country? Because if he did, no Chinese flight would be allowed to land in Kenya as long as the coronavirus remains a threat. Our health system can’t handle a coronavirus outbreak,” Mwangi wrote.

Another Kenyan calling himself “Nick Nimrod” wrote: “Just imagine China -- with all the first-class resources, they haven’t managed to contain the virus from spreading for a whole two months. Now imagine how long it will take Kenya? How [soon] Nairobi will be a ghost town? How bad the economy will hit us?"

The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi also said that discussions about the outbreak should be "rational and scientific" and condemned "irresponsible and even racist remarks" against Chinese nationals in Africa.

Meanwhile, health officials in Kitui and Makueni counties in Kenya have denied reports that Chinese citizens who returned to the country were not being place under quarantine.

Dr. Richard Muthoka of Kitui and Dr. Andrew Mulwa of Makueni said their screening systems were on high alert to protect Kenyans from exposure to coronavirus.

“We will continue to be vigilant. I would like to assure the public that there’s no case of coronavirus and we will continue doing everything possible to protect our citizens,” said Mulwa.

Tens of thousands of Chinese live in Kenya, working or managing hundreds of companies in the country. China has invested tens of billions of dollars into the East African state, including $3.2 billion for a railway from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Health experts had earlier warned that Africa was highly vulnerable to the virus and that its inadequate medical structures would be sorely challenged by the outbreak.

"We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it," said Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. "This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now.”