Four government ministers in Burkina Faso have tested positive for the coronavirus, a government spokesperson said on Saturday, as the number of reported cases rose to 64 from 40, the highest in West Africa.
The ministers of foreign affairs, mines, education, and the interior have all tested positive in recent days, the spokesperson said.
“The rumor has become reality … I have just been notified that I have COVID-19,” foreign affairs minister Alpha Barry said in a tweet late on Friday, referring to media reports that had speculated about his health.
The minister of mines Oumarou Idani, minister of education Stanislas Ouaro and interior minister Simeon Sawadogo each confirmed their cases via Facebook posts.
A ministerial meeting was held on March 11, the government’s website shows, but it was not immediately clear if all the ministers attended.
The Italian ambassador to Burkina Faso Andrea Romussi has also been infected, he told Reuters, as has a high profile pastor, the health ministry said.
Burkina Faso is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that has rendered half its arid territory ungovernable and forced nearly a million people to flee their homes.
International health officials worry that the virus could spread out of control and overwhelm the threadbare healthcare system in one of the world’s poorest countries.
The government has put measures in place to stop the spread, including closing land and air borders and banning gatherings of more than 50 people.
Below is a Live Tracking of the cases, death toll and other information, updated daily: