March 16, 2020 / 10:45 AM / 16 days ago

Kenya raids shop selling fake coronavirus kits as Liberia confirms first case

NAIROBI/ADDIS ABABA, March 16 (Reuters) - Kenyan authorities raided a shop on Monday that was alleged to be selling fake coronavirus testing kits, as the World Health Organisation confirmed there were at least 327 cases on the African continent.

Police detained staff and locked the facility, witnesses told Reuters journalists at the scene, after the shop had been advertising testing kits online.

In West Africa, the small and impoverished nation of Liberia announced its first case on Monday, meaning that 27 African nations are now treating patients with coronavirus. The disease has killed 6,509 people and infected almost 170,000 people worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-largest nation, joined the growing list of countries that closed schools for two weeks, suspended all large gatherings and cancelled all sports events, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said.

Free rides will be available on government buses to curb overcrowding in the public transport system, a statement said.

“The Prime Minister calls upon all to maintain calm and equip themselves with accurate information from the Ministry of Health,” Abiy’s office said.

Nigeria’s health ministry said the country, Africa’s most populous, had taken additional measures including strengthening contact tracing, stockpiling reagents used in test kits and increasing testing capacity.

Many African nations, including some without reported cases, have ordered tougher control measures, including bans on public gatherings, halting flights and closing schools and universities.

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said on Monday that despite having some money available for coronavirus response through the National Disaster fund, the government may need to earmark further funding.

“As the situation develops we will need to set aside further funding, that means we will have to reduce programmes throughout the government system by reducing the allocated amounts,” Mboweni said at a conference outlining new measures to contain the outbreak. He did not provide any figures.

The number of cases in Rwanda increased to five on Monday, and Burkina Faso’s health ministry said that eight new coronavirus cases had been confirmed, bringing the total there to 15 since March 9. (Reporting by Giulia Paravicini, Baz Ratner and David Lewis in Nairobi, Juliette Jabkhiro in Dakar, Clement Uwiringiyiman in Kigali; Olivia Kumwenda in Johannesburg and Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Giles Elgood)

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