BackgroundPredictions have been made that Africa would be the most vulnerable continent to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Interestingly, the spread of the disease in Africa seems to have been delayed and initially slower than in many parts of the World. Here we report on two cases which make us suspect that COVID-19 might have been present in our region before the official declaration of the disease in December 2019.Case presentationThese two cases (one 55-year-old man and one 25-year-old woman) of acute respiratory distress secondary to atypical pneumonia were seen in Bukavu, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), between September and December 2019. One patient had returned from China and the other had close contacts with travellers from China in the 2 weeks prior to the onset of symptoms. In either case, the aetiology could not be accurately determined. However, the two cases presented a clinical picture (progressive dyspnoea, preceded by dry cough and fever) and laboratory changes (procalcitonin within the normal range, slight inflammation, and lymphopenia) compatible with a viral infection. The chest X-Rays series of the first patient showed lesions (reticulations, ground glass, and nodules ≤ 6 mm) similar to those found in COVID-19. In addition, unlike the 25-year-old female patient who had no comorbidity, the 55-year-old male patient who had hypertension as comorbidity, developed a more severe acute respiratory distress which progressed to death.ConclusionThese cases bring to the attention a number of facts which make us suspect that the COVID-19 epidemic may have already been present in the region months before the official beginning of the pandemic.