Guinea-Bissau Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam said on Wednesday he had been infected with coronavirus, as three other ministers in the fragile state of West Africa also had positive results.
“I tested positive for the new coronavirus, I am at home and I feel good,” said Nabiam in a Facebook post.
Adding that the virus “exists and spreads easily”, the prime minister asked citizens to stay at home and “take all measures to save their lives and that of their families”.
The former Portuguese colony of about 1.8 million people has registered 73 cases of coronavirus so far, with one fatality.
The country has been chronically unstable since independence in 1974, destroyed by frequent military coups.
Guinea-Bissau has also long struggled with poverty and corruption and has become a transit route for South American cocaine towards Europe.
As in other poor countries in the region, it is feared that it is ill-equipped to deal with a major outbreak. Nabiam said that a “good number” of members of an interministerial coronavirus committee had captured COVID-19, suggesting that this was because they were “at the forefront” of fighting the disease.
Health Minister Antonio Deuna told 9jatoday that three other government ministers were infected, in addition to the prime minister.
Interior Minister Botche Cande was positive, he said, as were Secretary of State for Public Order, Mario Fambe, and Secretary of State for Regional Integration, Monica Boiro.
Deuna added that several ministers and government officials were tested after the country announced its first coronavirus death on Sunday in senior police commissioner Biom Nantchongo.
A police officer assigned to the Interior Ministry, who requested anonymity, said that ministry officials are in close contact and generally talk without wearing masks. “We are all afraid,” he said.