Prelates in East Africa Express Caution about Coronavirus in Africa

Coronavirus disease 2019, dubbed COVID-19
Credit: Public Domain

With the rising concerns of an imminent spread of COVID-19 against the backdrop of the first case in Africa reported in Nigeria, Bishops in the East African countries of Kenya and Uganda have, in independent messages and contexts, expressed their concerns about the virus and called on relevant government agencies to take special health measures.

The virus has killed well over 2,800 people and infected more than 83,000 across the globe, according to a latest report.

In Uganda, the Bishop of Masaka Diocese, Serverus Jjumba has called on the government to put in measures that will prevent the spread of the deadly virus in the country months before the annual pilgrimage to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo, the June 3 event that gathers millions of pilgrims from within and outside the East African nation.

The Ugandan diocese is overseeing the preparations of this year’s celebration, including the mobilization of funds to facilitate the implementation of the activities of the day.

Addressing a congregation consisting of Members of Parliament (MPs) at the start of lent Wednesday, February 26, Bishop Jjumba urged the government to ensure that pilgrims who will be travelling into the country adhere to the correct security measures before they are allowed to mingle with the locals.

“What we have to believe as people of faith is that the Lord is in control as we read in psalms 127 – If the Lord does not keep the city, in vain are the watchmen,” Bishop Jjumba addressed the MPs.

“But we have to be involved,” the Bishop continued, calling on the Ugandan “government to do whatever possible measures through the organs of health, security so that those who can come are stopped or quarantined in order to control infection and transition of the deadly virus.”

In Kenya, where the country’s High Court Friday, February 28 ordered that flights from China be temporarily suspended following a petition by the Law Society of Kenya, Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa has asked medical doctors to be on the alert and the country’s health ministry to be prepared just in case the virus gets detected in the country.

Kenyans expressed concerns about their exposure to the deadly disease particularly after some 239 Chinese passengers were allowed entry into the country February 26 aboard China Southern Airlines from Guangzhou, China, the Kenyan government giving them the condition of a 14-day “self-quarantine”.  

“Self-quarantine can never work, serikali acha utoto (government, stop kidding),” Deddy Evans, a Kenyan was filmed saying while protesting outside Nairobi-based Milimani law courts and, addressing government authorities in Kenya added, “Stop making silly decisions on our behalf.”

After Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, diagnosed the first case of the feared virus in sub-Saharan Africa Friday, February 28, the World Health Organization warned against the “fatal mistake” of complacency because the outbreak of the virus is “getting bigger” and that “most, if not, all countries” could be reached.

Other cases of the virus had been reported in Algeria and Egypt, but not in sub-Saharan region of Africa. The case in Nigeria involves an Italian man who returned to Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos early this week.

The virus was not detected at the airport when he arrived from Milan in Italy the evening of February 24 and reports indicate that he did not have symptoms at that time. He became ill after traveling through Lagos and presented himself to a hospital, Nigeria’s health minister said.

Authorities in the West African nation are working toward meeting and observing other passengers who were with the Italian patient on the flight. The authorities are also seeking to identify people the Italian man met including the places he visited in Lagos, a city with some 20 million inhabitants.

Commissioner Akin Abayomi has been quoted as saying that the Italian patient had been transferred to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and further testing and that he was being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

WHO spokesman, Christian Lindmeier told a conference in Geneva that his agency was investigating the possibility of re-infection of patients even though the assumption is that “a person who had coronavirus infection would be immune for at least a while.”

Two South African nationals working on Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan tested positive for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health in South Africa reported.

According to the ministry’s statement, the pair of South Africans “are currently being treated in Japan and the latest reports indicate that they are currently asymptomatic.”

Meanwhile, at the Vatican, special health measures are being implemented and some events cancelled as the European country of Italy records over 500 cases of positive tests for COVID-19, Catholic News Agency has reported.

Holy See Press Office Director, Matteo Bruni told Vatican News that hand sanitizer dispensers had been installed in Vatican City offices and that a nurse and a doctor were on call at a Vatican clinic to provide immediate assistance in case of need. 

“In compliance with the provisions of the Italian authorities, some events scheduled for the next few days in indoor places and with an important influx of public have been postponed," Bruni has been quoted as saying.

Outside China, the epicenter of COVID-19, the virus has spread to some 46 countries across the globe with WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying all nations need to prepare themselves for “this virus has pandemic potential.”

Agnes Aineah of ACI Africa and Annmarie Nattabi, Uganda, contributed to this story


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]