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Virus Could Overwhelm Africa Health Systems

An ambulance enters the military air base in Istres, southern France, Friday Jan.31, 2020. European passengers escaping Wuhan by air are expected in France later Friday and will be kept in quarantine for 14 days and will be put up at a southern vacation resort of Carry-le-Rouet with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

By the Associated Press

A World Health Organization official in Africa says the new virus “could overwhelm health systems we have in Africa.”

Dr. Michel Yao, emergency operations program manager in Africa, spoke to The Associated Press on Friday after WHO declared the new coronavirus a global health emergency and cited “countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”

Related: CDC Confirms Person-to-Person Spread of New Coronavirus in the U.S.

Yao said WHO has listed high-priority countries with direct China flights or many visitors from China, where thousands of people have been infected.

The high-priority countries include Algeria, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Within the next few days, at least 20 countries in Africa will be supplied with the reagent needed to test samples for the virus, Yao said.

He defended the precautionary measures amid other urgent health crises in Africa including outbreaks of Ebola and measles in Congo. “If turns out to be a mild virus, that’s perfectly fine. If it’s dangerous and you let it go and decimate people, you have failed in public health,” he said.