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UN secretary general concerned that coronavirus could hit countries with weak health systems

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The secretary general of the United Nations said Tuesday that one of his biggest concerns is the possible spread of the coronavirus to countries with “less capacity in their health service.”

If that were to happen, those countries would require much international help and solidarity, said António Guterres in an interview with the Associated Press in Pakistan.

In recent days, Egypt reported its first case of the virus, sparking fears that it could spread across Africa — a continent particularly ill-equipped to handle such epidemics.

The risk of outbreak on the continent is high, world health leaders have cautioned. Africa is home to more than 1.2 billion people, including an estimated 1 million Chinese nationals, who tend to work in business, construction, oil and mining — a testament to Beijing’s increasingly tight relationship with Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia and other countries in the region.

Before the arrival of recent World Health Organization supplies, there were only two labs in Africa that had testing capabilities for the virus, Post reporters wrote earlier this month.

African governments have been rushing to ramp up their preparedness, including construction of isolation wards, but more specialized training is needed to address a new and fast-spreading problem.

In his Tuesday interview, Guterres said, “The risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”

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