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COVID-19 could linger for years, African govts must sit up – WHO warns

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The coronavirus pandemic has been confirmed in over 180 countries globally since it was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019.

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has since declared it a pandemic due to its spread. All African countries except Lesotho have since recorded cases as governments roll out measures to combat the spread.

In this article, we will share the latest developments as authorities implement measures to contain the spread of the virus, especially on the African continent.

Major African stats: May 9 as of 7:00 GMT:

  • Confirmed cases = 57,844
  • Number of deaths = 2,154
  • Recoveries = 19,133
  • Infected countries = 53
  • Virus-free countries = 1 (Lesotho)
  • Africa could risk case, death explosion – WHO warns
  • Comoros records first case

Africa risks explosion of cases, deaths

The coronavirus could “smolder” in Africa for years and take a high death toll across the continent, the World Health Organization has warned.

The virus is spreading in Africa, but so far the continent has not seen a dramatic explosion in the number of confirmed cases.

More than 52,000 confirmed infections and 2,074 virus-related deaths have been reported by African countries, according to figures released Friday (May 8) by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total number of cases has risen by more than 42% in the past week.

The disease appears to be spreading more slowly across Africa than in Europe, according to the WHO report. Officials say that could be due to poor surveillance or less developed transport links.

“While COVID-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smolder in transmission hotspots,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa who is based in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. She said outbreaks would likely peak about one month after the virus starts spreading widely in communities.

“COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region. We need to test, trace, isolate and treat,” Moeti said in a video call.

The WHO estimated that if no containment measures are taken, COVID-19 could cause deaths ranging from 83,000 to 190,000 people in Africa in the first year of the pandemic. As many as 44 million of the continent’s 1.3 billion people could be infected during the same period, the U.N. health agency estimated, based on its prediction model of 47 African countries.

But the projected number of infections and deaths is based on the assumption that no containment measures are taken. In fact, 43 African countries have implemented measures to reduce the spread of the virus, ranging from nationwide lockdowns to restrictions in major cities to curfews, closed schools and banned public gatherings.

Africa, which has most of its population under 20 years old, may be experiencing a slower rate of transmission, less severe cases and less deaths because the virus is known to affect the elderly at a much deadlier rate.

But Africa could see a more prolonged outbreak that lasts a few years, according to the study. Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon as well as several smaller African countries are at high risk if containment measures are not prioritized, it said.

As many as 5.5 million Africans could require hospitalization for COVID-19, which would severely strain the health resources of many countries, said the study.

Africa has an average of nine intensive care unit beds per 1 million people, according to a recent WHO survey. These would be “woefully inadequate,” the new report said.

“The importance of promoting effective containment measures is crucial, as sustained and widespread transmission of the virus could severely overwhelm our health systems,” said Dr. Moeti. “Curbing a large-scale outbreak is far costlier than the ongoing preventive measures that governments are undertaking to contain the spread of the virus.”

Social distancing and frequent hand washing are key virus containment measures in Africa.

First case of coronavirus in the Comoros – President confirms

Comoros announced its index case of the novel coronavirus this Thursday, April 30, 2020. The President of the Republic Azali Assoumani explained that the patient is a 50-year-old Franco-Comorian who has since been admitted to a hospital.

Borders are closed in Comoros while a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. is in effect. During this Ramadan period, the mosques are also closed but there is no full lockdown.

Azali Assoumani explained that contact tracing is being carried out. With this development, it leaves Lesotho as the sole African country without a confirmed case.

April 24: Trump speaks with Ramaphosa and Kenyatta

President of the United States Donald Trump has spoken to two African leaders pledging his country’s support for their respective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump spoke with South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta expressing America’s support to the two countries and pledging additional support.

The South African president is also current chairperson of the African Union, AU; he is leading Africa’s most impacted country and the continent’s effort to get international support to fight the pandemic.

South Africa’s coronavirus statistics as of April 24 at 7:00 GMT were as follows: 3,953 confirmed cases, 1,473 recoveries and 75 deaths. Kenya, on the other hand, had 320 cases, 89 recoveries, and 14 deaths.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Read-out from White House of call between President Donald Trump and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.#sabcnews

Africa dangerously behind in global race for virus gear

As Africa braces for a surge in coronavirus cases, its countries are dangerously behind in the global race for scarce medical equipment. Ten nations have no ventilators at all.

Outbid by richer countries, and not receiving medical gear from top aid donor the United States, African officials scramble for solutions as virus cases climb past 25,000. Even in the best scenario, the United Nations says 74 million test kits and 30,000 ventilators will be needed by the continent’s 1.3 billion people this year. Very few are in hand.

“We are competing with the developed world,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The very future of the continent will depend on how this matter is handled.”

Politicians instinctively try to protect their own people and “we know that sometimes the worst in human behavior comes out,” said Simon Missiri, Africa director with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, urging an equitable approach to help developing nations.

The crisis has jolted African nations into creating a pooled purchasing platform under the African Union to improve negotiating power. Within days of its formation, the AU landed more than 100,000 test kits from a German source. The World Health Organization is pitching in, approaching manufacturers for supplies.

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