June 27, 2020 / 2:41 PM / 14 days ago

Bissau braces for rise in coronavirus cases, enlists Cuban medical help

BISSAU (Reuters) - Guinea Bissau was warned on Saturday to prepare for a possible increase in coronavirus cases by the head of its response commission, as a team of Cuban health workers arrived to help the nation tackle the pandemic.

The West African nation of over 1.8 million people has seen its infection rate rise in recent weeks to 1,614 confirmed cases, with 22 deaths. Almost all cases (94%) have been recorded in the capital Bissau.

Former health minister Magda Nely Robalo, who was appointed to take charge of the response, urged people to continue preventive measures as she welcomed the 23 Cuban doctors and health workers who came at the request of the Bissau government.

Robalo said Guinea Bissau was facing major challenges due to the weakness of its health system. An increase in cases could overwhelm the system, she said.

Her warnning came after Guinea Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo on Friday extended a state of emergency for the sixth time since the outbreak.

Embalo said in a statement that the extension, to July 25, was due to the continued increase in infections and the number of deaths. There was also concern about the possible spread of the virus to other regions of the country, he said.

Over 170 of Bissau’s 2,000 health workers have contracted coronavirus, according to the World Health Organisation, while health authorities have raised the alarm over a lack of oxygen to treat patients.

Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Mike Harrison

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