ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Surveillance and screening on the novel coronavirus is being enhanced across Africa as reports of the existence of the virus on the continent remain yet unconfirmed, a senior African Union (AU) official said Tuesday.
Diseases Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong told reporters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa that "rumors" would likely circulate around suspected coronavirus cases, without rejecting the risk of Africa importing the virus given the continent's strong links with China.
Concerns have mounted after reports emerged on a suspected coronavirus case in Ivory Coast on Monday.
"It is very possible that we have cases [of coronavirus], but not recognized," Nkengasong said at the AU headquarters.
"We have to admit there [may be] certain cases we don't know [of]," he said, adding that the effectiveness of each country's surveillance system varied across the continent.
The coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan city of China's central province of Hubei.
John Nkengasong said the latest reports showed there were some 4,474 confirmed cases of the virus globally of which 4,409 were in China.
Some 107 victims have died due to the virus, while 63 have reportedly recovered, he added.
"We have no suspected case reported [in Africa], though there are rumors," Nkengasong said.
He commended China for what he described as an impressive and positive effort to contain the virus and for being "forthcoming in reporting figures."
Airports across Africa have begun additional screening procedures for passengers, with many carriers, making multiple flights to China daily.
Tens of cases have been reported in Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Thailand, the U.S., Singapore, France, Malaysia, Australia and Vietnam.