The southern African country of Lesotho has recorded its first coronavirus case, its health ministry has said, becoming the last nation on the continent to confirm an infection.
The ministry on Wednesday said it conducted 81 coronavirus tests on travellers from neighbouring South Africa and Saudi Arabia, of which one was positive, while the results of 301 other tests are awaited.
“The Ministry of Health informs the Basotho nation and the entire community living in Lesotho, that the country now has the first confirmed case of COVID-19,” Director General Dr Nyane Letsie said.
The patient is a Lesotho national studying in Saudi Arabia.
The high-altitude kingdom of more than two million citizens is surrounded by its bigger, more industrialised neighbour, South Africa.
Lesotho went into lockdown on March 29 to protect itself from a potential spread of the virus from South Africa, which has recorded more than 10,000 cases – the highest in the African continent.
Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane loosened the restrictions on May 6 allowing “all non-essential services and enterprises” to “temporarily open shop”.
Africa has confirmed close to 70,000 COVID-19 cases, including 2,421 deaths and 23,857 recoveries, according to a Reuters news agency’s tally based on government statements and the WHO data.
Nearly 4.3 million people across the globe have been infected since the virus appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year. More than 293,500 people have died.
The disease has struck at a time of political uncertainty in Lesotho, with Thabane due to step down by the end of the next week after his coalition collapsed in parliament.
His exit would clear the way for a solution to a political crisis that erupted late last year, when he and his current wife were accused by police of murdering his former wife nearly three years ago. Both of them deny the charges.
It is unclear when will he step down, although parliament has already provisionally named Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro as his replacement.