Somalia’s government confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus on Monday.
Health Minister Fawziya Abikar said during a news conference in Mogadishu that a Somali national who returned from one of the countries affected by the virus has tested positive.
“We want to inform the Somali people that today March 16, 2020 we can confirm the first case of coronavirus,” she said in a televised statement.
“There were citizens who came from abroad who were held inside the airport because they came from zones where the coronavirus was prevalent. It was a precautionary measure. Samples were taken and this morning we received the results: one person is carrying the virus,” Abikar said.
The government did not identify the person but last week the Ministry of Health said that four Somalis who returned from China are being held in isolation. At the time, the government reported that samples were taken and sent abroad for checkup of the virus.
An outbreak of coronavirus could be catastrophic in Somalia, where decades of violence and lawlessness have left the country with an almost nonexistent health care system.
In a bid to curb the virus’s spread, the Somali government has announced suspension of all international flights arriving or leaving the country for two weeks.
The ban will be effective beginning March 18 and will affect international carriers including airlines from Turkey, Qatar, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda that operate international routes to and from Somalia.
The ban will also affect dozens of planes that bring Khat, a green narcotic leave, from Kenya on a daily basis.
The Somali government said special permission will be given to humanitarian flights.