More than 1 million COVID-19 tests to be rolled out across Africa as infections multiply by 51% and death toll rises by 60% in one week Updated for 2021

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Updated: March 4, 2021

The number of coronavirus infections across Africa has risen by 51 percent in the past one week alone, while the number of reported deaths has increased by at least 60 percent in the same period, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

just over two months since COVID-19 was first detected in Africa, the disease has now spread to nearly every country, resulting in nearly 17 000 confirmed cases and around 900 deaths across the continent. 

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As a result, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday that more than 1 million tests for COVID-19 will be rolled out across the continent starting next week, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at his regular press briefing from Geneva on Friday.

“In the past week there has been a 51% increase in the number of reported cases in my own continent, Africa, and a 60% increase in the number of reported deaths.

“With the current challenge of obtaining testing kits, it’s likely that the real numbers are higher than reported.

“With WHO support, most countries in Africa now have the capacity to test for COVID-19, but there are still significant gaps in access to testing kits. We’re working with partners to fill those gaps and help countries find the virus.

“The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday that more than 1 million tests for COVID-19 will be rolled out across the continent starting next week.

“Strengthening and supporting African institutions like the Africa CDC will help now and for the future,” he said.

Dr. Ghebreyesus announced that he had earlier in the day spoken with President Ramaphosa of South Africa, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, and the President of the World Bank, David Malpass, to further strengthen support for Africa.

Read WHO Director-General’s full opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 17 April 2020

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

Tomorrow, WHO is joining forces with many of the world’s leading musicians, comedians and humanitarians for the “One World, Together At Home” virtual global special.

This is the result of a close collaboration with my good friend Hugh Evans from Global Citizen, and the inspirational Lady Gaga, to bring entertainment, joy and hope into the homes of people all around the world, whose lives have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Lady Gaga’s mother Cynthia Germanotta, who is our Goodwill Ambassador, and is doing a great job advocating for mental health around the world – thank you so much Lady Gaga and Cynthia for your continued support and help. This is a family project and we appreciate your leadership and contribution.

This is an opportunity to express our solidarity with frontline workers, and to mobilize philanthropists, the private sector and governments to support the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, powered by the United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation.

So far, the Solidarity Response Fund has generated more than US$150 million from more than 245,000 individuals, corporations and foundations.

These funds are helping us to buy personal protective equipment, laboratory diagnostics and other essential supplies for the countries that need it most.

I would like to say thank you so much, thank you from our heart to those who have contributed.

For further details about tomorrow’s events, I’m delighted to welcome once again my friend and my brother Hugh Evans to say a few words, to be followed by the amazing Lady Gaga.

Hugh, over to you.

[HUGH EVANS AND LADY GAGA ADDRESSED THE MEDIA]

Thank you so much, Lady Gaga and thank you Hugh. I look forward to joining you and millions of people all over the world tomorrow for what I’m sure will be a wonderful event.

I share what Lady Gaga said: what the world needs is love and solidarity. So please accept much gratitude and much love from myself, Lada Gaga and Hugh Evans, and all our colleagues here. That’s what the world needs: love and solidarity to defeat this dangerous enemy.

More than 2 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than 135,000 people have lost their lives.

While we mourn for those we’ve lost, we also celebrate those who have survived, and the thousands of people who are now recovering.

WHO is updating our guidance to include recommendations for caring for patients during their recovery period and after hospital discharge.

We’re encouraged that several countries in Europe and North America are now starting to plan how to ease social restrictions.

We have said previously that easing these measures must be a gradual process, and we’ve spoken about the criteria that countries should consider.

Yesterday we published our guidance on considerations in adjusting public health and social measures, which we encourage countries to read and apply.

But although we see encouraging signs in some countries, there are worrying trends in others.

In the past week there has been a 51% increase in the number of reported cases in my own continent, Africa, and a 60% increase in the number of reported deaths.

With the current challenge of obtaining testing kits, it’s likely that the real numbers are higher than reported.

With WHO support, most countries in Africa now have the capacity to test for COVID-19, but there are still significant gaps in access to testing kits. We’re working with partners to fill those gaps and help countries find the virus.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday that more than 1 million tests for COVID-19 will be rolled out across the continent starting next week.

Strengthening and supporting African institutions like the Africa CDC will help now and fur the future.

To further strengthen support for Africa, earlier this afternoon I spoke with President Ramaphosa of South Africa, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, and the President of the World Bank, David Malpass.

===

In addition to tests, we’re also working hard to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of a vaccine.

Yesterday I spoke to President Emmanuel Macron of France, Bill Gates and other partners to discuss how to prevent another pandemic by getting vaccines from labs to people as fast as possible and as equitably as possible. The commitment from President Macron, from Bill Gates and also from Prime Minister Boris Johnson is heart-warming.

I also spoke to the Prime Minister of Barbados and the current chair of Caribbean countries about the challenges faced by small island developing states in gaining access to test kits and other supplies. No country should be left behind.

I would like to use this opportunity to appreciate the strong leadership of the Prime Minister of Barbados steering the response in the Caribbean.

Today I also spoke to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, about continuing efforts across Europe to fight the pandemic and support lives and livelihoods.

The commitment of both leaders, President Von der Leyen and Prime Minister Marin is very heartwarming again.

I would like to clarify WHO’s position on “wet markets”.

Wet markets are an important source of affordable food and livelihood for millions of people all over the world.

But in many places, they have been poorly regulated and poorly maintained.

WHO’s position is that when these markets are allowed to reopen, it should only be on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards.

Governments must rigorously enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food.

WHO has worked closely with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to develop guidance on the safe operation of markets.

Because an estimated 70% of all new viruses come from animals, we also work together closely to understand and prevent pathogens crossing from animals to humans.

Finally, WHO is committed to keeping the world informed in as many ways as possible, in as many languages as possible.

Our Viber chatbot is now reaching 2.6 million people with reliable, evidence-based information, and is available in 16 languages.

This week we launched Tamil, Sinhala, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian and Hungarian, and we plan to launch Polish and Bangla next week.

I’m pleased to say that from Monday, we will be providing simultaneous interpretation for these press conferences in all official UN languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

We’re also planning to expand to include other languages like Swahili and Hindi.

We look forward to having more journalists join us from all over the world.

I thank you.         

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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