Algeria has confirmed its first case of Covid-19, becoming the second African country to report the disease. The country’s minister of health Abderrahmane Benbouzid announced on state television on Tuesday evening that an Italian national who arrived in the North African country on February 17 tested positive for the virus, which causes a disease known as Covid-19. Benbouzid said the patient has been placed in quarantine and was receiving treatment. The patient’s home country Italy is the worst-hit European nation. It has seen almost a dozen people die and hundreds of confirmed cases as coronavirus continues to spread in the country’s northern region. Outside China, Iran has the highest number of deaths, with at least 16 reported so far. Algeria was the second country in North Africa to be hit by the disease, after Egypt, which reported the first case of coronavirus on the continent earlier this month. This comes as countries across the world scramble to contain the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, which has so far claimed more than 2,700 lives. The World Health Organisation said it is preparing to deploy a team of experts to Algeria to support health authorities. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said Algeria is one of 13 countries that the WHO has identified as a top priority for preparedness measures due to their direct links or a high volume of travel to China. Italy, reeling from coronavirus outbreak, discovers what it’s like to be Chinese A recent report by The Lancet singled out Algeria, Egypt and South Africa as being among the highest risk countries for new Covid-19 cases in Africa, based on their direct links and volume of travel to China. “The window of opportunity the continent has had to prepare for coronavirus is closing. All countries must ramp up their preparedness activities,” Moeti said on Wednesday. Algeria is one of the countries that repatriated its citizens from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. Concerns have been raised across the continent that several African countries with weak health systems may not have the capacity to control the spread of the virus. Health ministers across Africa held an emergency meeting over the weekend to discuss the best strategy to prevent the virus spreading further in the continent. During the meeting, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, said the devastating effect of the coronavirus is being “felt in the continent economically and socially”. “This epidemic is a human tragedy and it’s already paralysing economic activities,” said Mahamat. He said African countries were feeling the effects already, because China, one of Africa’s economic partners, is affected. China hits back at American ‘coronavirus overreaction’ with travel warning for US There are concerns that Africa’s close links with China put it at high risk for the spread of the new coronavirus. Further, Africa has become home to many Chinese since Beijing started looking to the continent for raw materials for its industries and markets for its products. “If we do not take urgent actions the socio-economic effects will be very huge on Africa and the rest of the world,” Mahamat told an emergency meeting of African Union health ministers in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, over the weekend. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.