By World Healthcare Journal-
Covid-19 infections in Africa have surpassed 500,000 as a growing number of countries are experiencing a sharp rise in cases, which may be much higher than currently reported.
In less than six months the virus has claimed at least 11,959 lives across Africa, overtaking the 11,308 lives lost in the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.
Over the past month, cases have nearly doubled in African 22 countries, with nearly two-thirds of countries experiencing community transmission. Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa account for about 42 per cent of Covid-19 cases, and South Africa alone accounts for 29 per cent of the total cases on the continent.
“With more than a third of countries in Africa doubling their cases over the past month, the threat of COVID-19 overwhelming fragile health systems on the continent is escalating,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Director for Africa.
“So far the continent has avoided disaster and if countries continue to strengthen key public health measures such as testing, tracing contacts and isolating cases, we can slow down the spread of the virus to a manageable level. ”
However, the spike in coronavirus cases is not uniform across the continent, with some countries recording a steady rise in cases, indicating that the outbreak is still worsening, but not at a rapid rate.
There are also some signs of progress, as 10 countries have witnessed a downward trend in coronavirus cases over the past month. Furthermore, even though Egypt accounts for 15 per cent of cumulative cases, it is now seeing a decline in cases.
"Communities across the continent have a crucial role to play in controlling the pandemic, especially as countries begin easing lockdowns and opening up their borders," said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
"As governments continue to implement public health measures, individuals must remain as cautious and vigilant as ever to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Hand washing, mask use, physical distancing and other preventative measures are key to controlling transmission, saving lives, and ensuring that already overwhelmed health systems are not stretched to breaking point."
Additionally, the issue of coronavirus in Africa is being exacerbated by the shortage of reliable data, reported by Reuters, with some governments reluctant to acknowledge epidemics or to expose their crumbling health systems to outside scrutiny. Other nationsare simply unable to carry out significant testing because they are so ravaged by poverty and conflict. As things stand, it is impossible to gauge the full severity of the contagion across the continent.
By 7 July, 4,200 tests per million people had been carried out across the continent, according to a Reuters analysis of figures from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a body set up by the African Union in 2017. That compares with averages of 7,650 in Asia and 74,255 in Europe.
Interviews with dozens of health workers, diplomats and local officials revealed not just a scarcity of reliable testing in most countries, but also the lengths some governments have gone to prevent news of infection rates from emerging, even if that meant they missed out on donor funding.
“We cannot help a country against its own will,” Michel Yao, head of emergency operations for the WHO in Africa, told Reuters. “In some countries, they are having meetings and not inviting us. We are supposed to be the main technical advisor. ” Yao declined to single out countries, saying the WHO needed to preserve a working relationship with governments.
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