Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency
Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

Africa's rising number of Covid-19 infections has WHO worried

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Jun 16, 2020

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Cape Town - The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern over the rising number of coronavirus (Covid-19) infections in Africa and the need for more testing kits.

The virus was first detected on the continent in mid-February and since then Africa has recorded more than 200 000 Covid-19 cases.

In a statement released last week, WHO Africa's regional offices in Brazzaville, Congo, said the pandemic was accelerating on the continent.

It took 98 days to reach 100000 cases and only 18 days to reach 200000 cases.

Ten countries within Africa are currently responsible for nearly 80% of all infections, with 70% of deaths taking place in only five countries - Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan.

Over 5600 people have succumbed to the virus.

WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said: “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.”

Many African states acted swiftly with the implementation of lockdowns, border closures, implementing health measures such as physical distancing, good hand hygiene and testing and contact tracing of Covid-19 cases as well as isolation of cases, according to WHO Africa.

Partner for Advisory Services Mazars, Bongiwe Mbunge, said: “Decisions to close borders and effect lockdown procedures happened very quickly in Africa, as opposed to other regions, perhaps because the continent has seen these types of disasters before.

"The impact of this pandemic has thus far been far less severe on the populace here.

"It has also been interesting to see how resources and funds have been made available to support businesses and households in countries like South Africa, Senegal, Morocco and Mauritius through public and private sector cooperation.

"These measures will be paramount to helping African economies recover over the coming years.”

South Africa has contributed to a quarter of the Covid-19 cases in Africa with the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, the hardest it.

Principal communications director at the provincial Health Department, Mark van der Heever, said a projected 10% of Covid-19 cases will require hospitalisation and that the country and province will face a shortage of critical beds.

“Even more important than the bed itself, or the availability of ventilators, is the availability of trained ICU or high-care staff. In the public sector, we have 135 beds available to us, but this is constrained by the availability of staff, allowing us to only use about 100 of these.”

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