Africa records over 200,000 COVID -19 cases

COVID-19 continues to spread in Africa with over 200, 000 cases since the virus was first detected on the continent in mid-February 2020.

The number of people who have perished due to the disease has soared to 5,600.

“The pandemic is accelerating – it took 98 days to reach 100, 000 cases and only 18 days to move to 200, 000 cases,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa said in a release.

Ten out of 54 countries are currently driving the rise in numbers, accounting for nearly 80% of all the cases. More than 70% of the deaths are taking place in only five countries: Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan.

South Africa is the most affected, accounting for 25% of the continent’s total cases, with the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces reporting a high number of cases and deaths daily.

More than half of the countries in the continent are experiencing COVID-19 community transmission.

“For now Africa still only accounts for a small fraction of cases worldwide,” Dr Moeti, pointed out.”The pace of the spread is quickening. Swift and early action by African countries have helped to keep numbers low, but constant vigilance is needed to stop COVID-19 from overwhelming health facilities.”

Many countries have implemented 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.

With the support of WHO, governments rapidly scaled up health workforce and laboratory capacities, and the setup of points-of-entry screening at airports and border crossings.

WHO indicated, “These public health and social measures have been effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Africa”.

In recent weeks, countries began relaxing lockdowns to resume some economic and social activities. The shutdowns have come at a considerable socioeconomic 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.

She said the need to balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods was a key consideration in this response, particularly in Africa.

The WHO advised that easing restrictions should be a controlled process and needs to be coupled with ensuring that widespread testing capabilities and mechanisms are in place.

WHO said 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.

As countries ease restrictions, health authorities will need to ensure the continuity of essential health care services while also resuming the full gamut of routine health services.

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