Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea and Mauritania all confirmed their first cases of COVID-19 on Friday, giving the disease a foothold in 19 out of 54 countries on the African continent.
Africa had until now largely been spared the rapid spread of COVID-19. Most of Africa’s reported cases were foreigners or people who had traveled abroad. Rapid testing and quarantines have been put in place to limit transmission, but concerns are growing about the continent’s ability to handle the disease.
Mauritania’s health ministry said late on Friday that its first coronavirus patient is a European man who had entered the country on March 9 and had since been in quarantine.
The numbers of cases in most of the countries are still in single figures.
Senegal confirmed 11 new cases on Friday, raising the total in that West African nation to 21. Its health ministry said 16 had been infected by the same man who had returned from Italy.