Guinea-Bissau’s prime minister, Nuno Gomes Nabiam, said Wednesday he had been infected with coronavirus, as three other ministers in the fragile West African state also tested positive.
“I have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, I am at home and I feel well,” Nabiam said in a Facebook post.
Adding that the virus “exists and spreads easily,” the prime minister urged citizens to stay home and “take every measure to save your life and those of your family”.
The former Portuguese colony of some 1.8 million people has registered 73 coronavirus cases to date, with one fatality.
The country has been chronically unstable since independence in 1974, wracked by frequent military coups.
Guinea-Bissau has also long struggled with poverty and corruption and has become a transit route for South American cocaine heading to Europe.
As with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that it is ill-equipped to handle a large outbreak.
Nabiam said that a “good number” of members of an interministerial coronavirus committee had caught COVID-19, suggesting that this was because they have been “at the forefront” of fighting the disease.
Health Minister Antonio Deuna told AFP that three other government ministers had been infected in addition to the premier.
Interior Minister Botche Cande has tested positive, he said, as well as 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 reported 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 staff are in close contact and often converse without wearing masks.
“We are all afraid,” he said.