After accessing the figures of COVID-19 test from African countries, World Health Organization (WHO) has raised concerns that the coronavirus pandemic was accelerating in Africa, spreading to the hinterland from capital cities where it arrived with travellers.
WHO, however, said there was no indication that severe cases and deaths were being missed, nor has the virus caused significant infections in refugee camps across the continent.
WHO’s Africa regional director, Matshidiso Moeti, on Thursday, hinted that 10 countries were driving Africa’s epidemic, accounting for 75 percent of some 207,600 cases on the continent, with 5,000 deaths reported, according to
She stated that South Africa, which last month began a phased easing of the lockdown, is the hardest-hit, accounting for a quarter of all cases.
“Even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3 percent of the global total, it’s clear that the pandemic is accelerating,” Moeti told a news briefing for Geneva-based U.N. correspondents. “We believe that large numbers of severe cases and deaths are not being missed in Africa.”
Africa’s population is relatively youthful and many countries had already established “point of entry” screening measures against Ebola fever – two factors which may have so far limited the spread of COVID-19, she said.
But lockdowns and market closures intended to contain coronavirus contagion have taken a heavy toll on marginalised communities and low-income families, Moeti said.
In South Africa, high numbers of daily cases and deaths are being reported in two provinces, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, she said, adding: “Specifically in the Western Cape where we are seeing a majority of cases and deaths, the trend seems to be similar to what was happening in Europe and in the U.S.”
A major challenge on the continent remains the availability of test kits, Moeti said.
“Until such time as we have access to an effective vaccine, I’m afraid we’ll probably have to live with a steady increase in the region, with some hotspots having to be managed in a number of countries, as is happening now in South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon for example, which require very strong public health measures, social distancing measures to take place.”