The Southern African Development Community has recommended temporary suspension of all in-person SADC meetings in its 16-nation region, urging instead the use of video conferencing, webinars and other tech-based solutions during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The decision was announced during a COVID-19 meeting of health ministers held in Tanzania on Monday.
“The main purpose of the meeting was to share existing knowledge and information on the COVID-19 outbreak, which has had devastating global impacts since its outbreak in December 2019, and agree on how to harmonize and coordinate the preparedness and response,” the ministers said in a statement.
The decision comes as SADC member nation Democratic Republic of Congo reported its first case of the coronavirus in a 52-year-old man in Kinshasa. He is Congolese but lives in France, and traveled to DR Congo on March 8, according to the ministry of health.
SADC member South Africa also has confirmed cases, with Lesotho reporting Tuesday that it has its first suspected case and is sending the test to South Africa for a final determination. That case involves a 35-year-old man from an unspecified foreign nation.
Elsewhere on the African continent, Moroccan officials reported their first case fatality, an octogenarian with travel history to Italy. Burkina Faso also has confirmed cases, bringing to 11 the number of nations now reporting COVID-19 patients. Egypt, with 59 cases, is the hardest-hit.
The global death toll surpassed 4,000 on Tuesday, with Italy and Iran continuing to report mounting fatalities. The coronavirus cases also were on the rise across Europe and North America, though fewer cases are reported in China where the outbreak first began.