Nigeria, nine other countries share the steady rise in Africa’s burden of Covid-19 cases with South Africa leading the pack.
World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement this afternoon listed:Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan as the five countries with topmost cases and deaths.
South Africa currently has confirmed cases of 55,421, recovered cases of 31,505 and deaths of 1,210
According to the health body, the pandemic is fast accelerating – it took 98 days to reach 100 000 cases and only 18 days to move to 200 000 cases.
South Africa which is the most affected is accounting for 25% of the continent’s total cases, with the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces reporting high number of cases and deaths daily.
The WHO also notes that more than half of the countries in the continent are experiencing COVID-19 community transmission. In many cases this is concentrated in capital cities, but cases are known to be fast spreading into the provinces.
According to WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, “For now Africa still only accounts for a small fraction of cases worldwide.
“But the pace of the spread is quickening. Swift and early action by African countries has helped to keep numbers low but constant vigilance is needed to stop COVID-19 from overwhelming health facilities”, Moeti laments.
WHO observed that what have helped so far is the fact that many countries were quick to make difficult decisions and put in place lockdowns and key public health measures such as promoting physical distancing, good hand hygiene and testing, tracing of contacts of people with COVID-19 and isolation of cases.
Also, with the support of WHO and other partners, governments also rapidly started to scale up health workforce and laboratory capacities, and to set up points-of-entry screening at airports and border crossings. These public health and social measures have been effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Africa.
WHO noted, in recent weeks, countries began relaxing lockdowns to resume some economic and social activities. The shutdowns have come at considerable socio economic cost.
“Stay-at-home orders and closing of markets and businesses have taken a heavy toll, particularly on the most vulnerable and marginalized communities,” said Dr Moeti.
“So, the need to balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods is a key consideration in this response, particularly in Africa”, Moeti added.
She advised that easing restrictions should be a controlled process and needs to be coupled with ensuring that widespread testing capacities and mechanisms are in place. These steps need to be constantly adapted according to the trends in the data and maintained until the pandemic is contained or there is a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 which is accessible to everyone.
The Health body equally advised that with countries ease restrictions, health authorities will need to ensure continuity of essential health care services while also resuming the full gamut of routine health services.