Burkina Faso has recorded its first cases of the fatal coronavirus barely two weeks before hosting the Malawi national football team in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group B qualifying match.
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has since urged the soccer authorities to ensure they take strict measures to protect the players while Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says it is on high alert, monitoring the situation.
According to international news agency, Reuters, the two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Burkina Faso on Monday, making it the sixth country in sub-Saharan Africa affected by the virus.
The West African nation’s health minister Claudine Lougue told reporters that the two patients, a husband and wife, had recently returned to Burkina Faso from a trip to France and were now in isolation at a hospital in the capital Ouagadougou.
It is in the same city at the multipurpose stadium Stade du 4 Août where Malawi is expected to face The Stallions.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture spokesperson Simon Mbvundula said they are bothered with situation in Burkina Faso.
“It’s too early to outline the steps we will take since we will first have to liaise with Foreign and Health ministries. Our only plea is that football authorities work closely with these ministries to ensure the players are safe,” he said.
On his part, FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said they have already been taking precautionary measures to protect the players from the disease.
“We are working hand in hand with the government through the ministries of Sports and Health as regards to football teams travelling in and outside the country in light of the coronavirus fears.
“We got a clearance to travel to Zambia for the international friendly match on Thursday and we will seek the same when travelling to Burkina Faso later this month,” he said.
Gunda also said that they are fmonitoring the coronavirus situation in countries where Malawian players are plying their trade.
“We are also monitoring the situation of the virus in countries where some of our players are based to ensure they are safe to travel during the Burkina Faso match,” he said.
Flames stand-in captain John ‘CJ’ Banda said since the authorities are aware of the situation, he hopes they will do the needful, “to ensure that the players are safe, but our lives count so much”.
Malawi face Burkina Faso on March 26 with a return match set to be played four days later. Uganda and Burkina Faso are joint leaders in Group B with four points apiece while the Flames are third with three points and South Sudan anchor the table with no point.
At least 109 578 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, have been reported worldwide. About 4 029 have died from it, according to www.worldometers.info.
Coronaviruses spread through close contacts with infected persons via contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.
The outbreak’s impact on football has been enormous with some games postponed while others are being played without spectators.
In Morocco, authorities have decided that teams play all games behind closed doors in an effort to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.
In Italy, all league matches have been suspended until April while in China, where the outbreak started, its football season failed to kickoff last month.