Burkina Faso Reports First Coronavirus Death In Sub-Saharan Africa

Men crossing a road wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the new COVID-19 coronavirus in Ouagadougou, on March 16, 2020. – The Burkina Faso government announced the closure of schools and universities until March 31, 2020, as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. The government also ordered the suspension of public and private demonstrations and rallies until the end of April 2020. OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP.

 

The Sahel state of Burkina Faso on Wednesday announced its first death from coronavirus, which is also the first known fatality in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We recorded the death overnight of a female patient aged 62, who suffered from diabetes and was in intensive care,” Burkina’s national coordinator for responding to the virus, Professor Martial Ouedraogo, told the press.

With the addition of seven new cases, “the number of patients (in Burkina Faso) stands at 27, comprising 15 women and 12 men”, Ouedraogo said.

The tally includes a case in the town of Bobo Dioulasso, the first outside the capital Ouagadougou.

Africa has lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, although the reasons for this are unclear.

As of Wednesday, a tally of reported cases, compiled by AFP, stood at 576 for all of Africa.

Of these, 15 cases have been fatal: six in Egypt, five in Algeria, two in Morocco, one in Sudan and one in Burkina Faso.

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Experts have sounded loud warnings about the vulnerability of sub-Saharan countries to the highly contagious respiratory virus.

Many countries are at high risk, given weak health systems, poverty, urban slums, porous borders and poor sanitation.

A 2016 analysis by the Rand Corporation, a US thinktank, found that of the 25 countries in the world that were most vulnerable to infectious outbreaks, 22 were in Africa — the others were Afghanistan, Yemen and Haiti.

The report put the finger on a “disease hot spot belt” extending on a line of countries, running across the southern rim of the Sahara through the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, many of which are struggling with conflicts.

“Were a communicable disease to emerge within this chain of countries, it could easily spread across borders in all directions, abetted by high overall vulnerability and a string of weak national health systems along the way,” the report warned.

On Saturday, Burkina Faso ordered the closure of all schools and a ban on all public and private gatherings until the end of April.

AFP

Philippines Suspends Stock Market Trade Over Coronavirus Fears

Vehicles pile up at the boundary of Manila and the North Luzon Expressway Mindanao Avenue exit during rush hour in Manila on March 16, 2020, with temperature and identification checkpoints as part of measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. – The virus has upended society around the planet, with governments imposing restrictions rarely seen outside war-time, including the closing of borders, home quarantine orders and the scrapping of public events. Maria TAN / AFP.

 

The Philippines suspended trade on its local stock exchange Tuesday, becoming the first country to close its financial market over coronavirus fears.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered most of the 55 million people on the main island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, to stay at home for the next month after social distancing measures failed to keep people away from one another.

Philippine Stock Exchange President Ramon Monzon told traders in a memo that trading is suspended starting Tuesday “until further notice” to move in step with Duterte’s order.

Monzon said the suspension was also “to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease”.

Confirmed cases in the Philippines have jumped to 142, with 12 deaths and the government has unveiled a 27.1 billion peso($526.6 million) package to fund hospitals fighting the virus and provide reprieve amid a slowdown in economic activity.

READ ALSO: Euro 2020 Fate To Be Decided As Coronavirus Threat Looms

The benchmark PSE index plunged 7.9 percent during shortened trading on Monday as investors reeled from the virus’ economic impact.

The suspension order came as stock markets and oil prices went into freefall after central banks’ fresh stimulus measures failed to dampen fears of the global pandemic.

Shares in Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index dropped by as much as 3.66 percent at Tuesday’s open before recovering about 70 minutes after the opening bell.

Overnight, Wall Street indices fell in their worst day since 1987, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropping about 12 percent and the Dow sinking nearly 13 percent.

AFP

US Begins First Human Trial Of Coronavirus Vaccine

 

The first human trial to evaluate a candidate vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 has begun in Seattle, US health officials said Monday.

“The open-label trial will enroll 45 healthy adult volunteers ages 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks,” the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said in a statement.

“The first participant received the investigational vaccine today.”

But the candidate would still need to progress through various more stages, known as phases, to prove it works and is safe.

US officials have estimated it may take another year to 18 months before it becomes available — if everything goes to plan.

The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and was developed by NIH scientists and collaborators at biotechnology company Moderna, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Funding was also provided by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

READ ALSO: Global Airlines Slash Almost All Flights As Coronavirus Spreads

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the NIH.

“This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

Coronaviruses are spherical and have spikes protruding from their surface, giving them a crown-like appearance. The spike binds to human cells, allowing the virus to gain entry.

The Moderna candidate vaccine carries the genetic information of this spike in a substance called “messenger RNA.”

Injecting human tissue with the spike’s messenger RNA makes it grow inside the body, thereby eliciting an immune response without having actually infected a person with the full-blown virus.

AFP