DAKAR, Senegal

Niger’s Labor and Employment Minister Mohamed Ben Omar died from the novel coronavirus, public TV channel Tele Sahel announced Monday.   

Omar’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) announced that he had died Sunday at a hospital in the capital Niamey but did not disclose the cause. 

The channel broadcast the 55-year-old minister’s recent message to the nation in which he urged workers to protect themselves from the virus.

“COVID-19 is a reality. It’s not a state of mind. It’s deadly. It kills. It spreads at the speed of light,” Ben Omar told the station.

“We must get a grip on ourselves in order to say ‘stop this virus.’ It is discipline alone that will be the weapon to destroy this virus.”

Since first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 187 countries and regions, with the US and Europe the hardest-hit areas.  

More than 3.5 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll surpassing 251,000 and more than 1.1 million recoveries, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.

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