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COVID-19 now in every African country as tiny Lesotho records its first case

Lesotho recorded its first case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, becoming the last country in Africa to be afflicted by the virus.

The ministry said it had conducted 81 tests for COVID-19 from travellers from South Africa and Saudi Arabia, one of which was positive. The patient, who was not showing signs of illness, is isolated.

The ministry was awaiting results from 301 other tests.

The remote, high-altitude kingdom, which is about the area of Vancouver Island, is nestled in a South African mountain range. It had previously been spared the coronavirus, although its bigger, more industrialized neighbour has recorded more than 11,000 cases.

Cases rising in Africa

The coronavirus has been slow to spread in Africa, but cases are rising. As at 8:45 a.m. ET, Africa had 69,764 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 2,421 deaths and 23,857 recoveries, according to a Reuters tally based on government statements and World Health Organization data.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report, released Wednesday, said the pandemic is “exacerbating poverty and inequality,” with an estimated 34.3 million people likely to fall below the extreme poverty line in 2020 — 56 per cent of them in Africa.

The disease has struck at a time of political uncertainty in Lesotho, a country of about two million people. Prime Minister Thomas Thabane due to step down by the end of next week after his coalition collapsed in Parliament.

The case comes amid political uncertainty in Lesotho. In this April 18 photo, the Lesotho Defence Force patrols the capital, Maseru, on April 18. Lesotho’s embattled prime minister Thomas Thabane sent troops onto the streets to “restore order,” accusing unnamed law enforcement agencies of undermining democracy. (Molise Molise/AFP via Getty Images)

His exit would clear the way for a solution to a political crisis that erupted late last year, when he and his current wife were accused by police of murdering his former wife nearly three years ago. They both deny the charges.

It is unclear when he will step down, although Parliament has already provisionally named Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro as his replacement.

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