The new coronavirus Covid-19 has reached 141 countries or regions of the world, and is now beginning to spread in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, 11 African countries now report cases of the virus. These include Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Togo, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The relatively slow rate of infection in Africa may be due to the continent’s prior experience with other epidemics, such as Ebola, and measures which have been in place prior to the current pandemic.

According to Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, General Director of National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, the same measures that protect against Ebola also protect against Covid-19. In a February 20 article on the World Health Organization site, Muyembe is quoted as having said, “Since the 10th Ebola outbreak, even provinces which have not had a case have put in place systems to screen travelers and promote handwashing, and these measures are the same needed to fight against coronavirus.” He added that due to Ebola, the country has established a laboratory system that can now be used to test for coronavirus as well. However, unlike Ebola, severely ill Covid-19 patients require respiratory support machines, and these are in short supply in many countries, including DRC.

According to CNN, other measures being taken in Africa to reduce rapid spread of the virus include pop-up washing facilities in Kigali, Rwanda, where passengers are required to wash hands before boarding buses; mandatory temperature screenings and use of hand sanitizers before entering public spaces in Lagos, Nigeria; travel restrictions with required self-isolation for those entering Uganda from many affected areas of the world.

The idea has circulated in recent weeks that black people are not able to contract Covid-19. This idea is clearly a myth, as is clear from the spread of the virus in Africa, as well as from recent cases in the United States, including those of two NBA basketball players who are African-American.