The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday that the window of opportunity that Africa has had to prepare for the novel coronavirus is closing as a second case was confirmed there.
Algeria’s health ministry reported the country’s first case of the virus, officially known as COVID-19, after tests indicated that an Italian man who arrived in the country on Feb. 17 had tested positive.
Africa’s first COVID-19 case was reported earlier this month in Egypt.
Algeria is one of the 47 countries in the WHO African region.
“This is the first case in the WHO African region,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement.
“The window of opportunity the continent has had to prepare for the coronavirus is closing. All countries must ramp up their preparedness activities.”
Algeria is one of 13 countries the WHO has identified as a top priority for preparedness measures due to their direct links or high volume of travel to China.
The WHO has promised to deploy a team of experts to Algeria to support health authorities.
During an emergency meeting Saturday with African health ministers at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the WHO pledged to support African countries on joint coronavirus disease preparedness and response strategies as the threat looms over the continent.
Moeti said the WHO has found that there are critical gaps in readiness for countries across the continent.
The WHO conducted a survey with countries to assess overall readiness for the disease and found the regional readiness level was an estimated 66%.
The coronavirus was first detected in China in December 2019 and has spread to more than 30 other countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Singapore, France, Russia, Spain and India.
In China, the death toll from the outbreak reached 2,663 Tuesday, with nearly 76,700 confirmed cases as health experts scramble to find a cure.