Lagos (AFP) – Residents of Nigeria’s economic hub Lagos scrambled for hygiene products Friday, after the chaotic megacity of 20 million announced the first confirmed case of new coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa.
Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement overnight that the infected person was an Italian citizen who flew in from Milan, at the heart of Europe’s largest outbreak, earlier this week.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms,” Ehanire said, adding that he was being treated at a hospital for infectious diseases in Lagos.
The low number of cases so far across Africa, which has close economic ties with China, the epicentre of the deadly outbreak, has puzzled health specialists.
Prior to the case in Nigeria, there had been just two cases on the continent — in Egypt and Algeria.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with some 190 million people, is viewed as highly vulnerable to viral spread given its weak health system and high population density.
Worried inhabitants of Lagos, a city hit by the West African Ebola epidemic in 2014, were already flocking to pharmacies Friday morning in search of hand sanitiser and masks.
“We are sold out for now, people came massively this morning,” a worker at a pharmacy on Lagos Island told AFP.
“Masks are scarce in town, we tried to order some and we couldn’t get them so people should use a handkerchief instead.”
One customer refused to shake hands as he said he was struggling to buy hygiene products.
“I’ve been trying to find hand sanitiser everywhere, they don’t have it anymore in the supermarket, they don’t have it at the pharmacy, I’m upset,” John said, giving only his first name.
“This epidemic is so scary, we should be very careful.”
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