March 10, 2020 / 2:21 PM / 23 days ago

Democratic Republic of Congo confirms first coronavirus case

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed its first case of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa hit by the epidemic to seven.

The patient is a Congolese citizen who lives in France and returned to Congo on March 8 with no symptoms of the virus, Health Minister Eteni Longondo told reporters. The patient and others with him have been placed in quarantine, Longondo said.

“What I’d like to tell people is not to panic,” he said, recommending people wash their hands regularly and stay at least one meter apart from people who have a cough.

The outbreak has largely spared sub-Saharan Africa so far, but since February a few cases have been registered in Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Cameroon, Togo and Burkina Faso. North African countries have registered dozens of cases.

Congo’s first coronavirus case comes as its long-running Ebola epidemic appears to be on the wane. The last patient being treated for Ebola was discharged on March 3 - the first time there have been no active cases since the outbreak was declared in August 2018.

(The story officially corrects to change nationality of patient in paragraph 2, as per a second statement by health ministry; adds detail on patient)

Reporting by Stanys Bujakera and Djaffar Al Katanty; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister

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