DAKAR (Reuters) – Equatorial Guinea is “severely affected” by the coronavirus, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa head said on Thursday, as its representative in the country was told to leave.
The Central African nation of over 1.2 million people has registered more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths since confirmation of its first case in mid-March, according to WHO data.
That is dwarfed by other countries in the region, but is significant given the oil-producing nation’s small population, the WHO said.
“By population we estimate it to be one of the severely affected countries in terms of the number of cases,” WHO’s Matshidiso Moeti told reporters.
The government has asked the WHO to replace its representative Triphonie Nkurunziza in Equatorial Guinea, Moeti added, without giving details on why.
“We are currently working on doing that,” she said.
“I’d like to emphasise very much that we are committed to working with the government, particularly working to support the people.”
Sub-Saharan Africa’s only Spanish-speaking territory, run along authoritarian lines by President Teodoro Obiang since a 1979 coup, has also been badly hit by a global oil downturn this year as fossil fuels provide 90% of state revenue.
The WHO has been helping the government respond to the coronavirus epidemic through the implementation of surveillance, contact-tracing, and isolation measures, as well as management of COVID-19 cases, Moeti said.
(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister and Andrew Cawthorne)