Covid-19: WHO urges constant vigilance in Africa as cases top 200,000

by Muizat Hameed
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World Health Organization has cautioned and urged constant vigilance in Africa as COVID-19 cases accelerates and top 200,000 cases including more than 5,600 deaths.

Africa recorded its first case of the new disease in mid-February. While it took nearly 100 days to reach 100,000 cases, the jump to 200,000 cases occurred in less than 20 days.

“For now, Africa still only accounts for a small fraction of cases worldwide”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“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.” He added

He further noted that the rising caseload is being driven by 10 countries, which account for nearly 80 per cent of all cases. Most deaths – more than 70 per cent – are occurring in only five nations: Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan.

South Africa is the most affected country, with one-quarter of the continent’s total cases. Two provinces – Western Cape and Eastern Cape – are reporting high numbers of cases and deaths daily.

WHO said public health measures had helped to slow the spread of COVID-19 on the continent. Many governments took steps such as implementing lockdowns, promoting physical distancing, and conducting contact tracing.

The UN agency and its partners have also been supporting national efforts to scale up the health workforce and laboratory testing, and to establish screening points at airports and border crossings.

He also stated that several countries have begun relaxing lockdowns so that economic and social activities can resume.

“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. “So, the need to balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods is a key consideration in this response, particularly in Africa.”

WHO thus recommends that as restrictions are lifted, countries must ensure that they can continue to test for COVID-19 while also providing access to essential health services.

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