South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire account for 71 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization in the African region said on Thursday.
Out of 25704 coronavirus cases in Sub-Saharan Africa, those seven countries account for about 18000 infections in the region. Sub-Saharan Africa has recorded 969 deaths.
More broadly, there are now over 38,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on the African continent with over 1,600 deaths, according to the latest tally by WHO African region on Friday morning.
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Comoros has also recorded its first case.
The WHO said on Thursday African countries should maintain strong surveillance, case finding and testing among other control measures to halt COVID-19, as they begin to ease lockdowns and open their economies.
“National and regional lockdowns have helped to slow down the spread of COVID, but it remains a considerable public health threat,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “Lockdowns are being eased in some parts of Africa, but we cannot just revert back to how things were before the outbreak. If governments abruptly end these measures, we risk losing the gains countries have made so far against COVID-19.”
Dr Moeti spoke at the WHO Africa Media Leader virtual press conference with the support of the World Economic Forum. The other speakers were Hon. Dr Zwelini Mkhize, Minister of Health of South Africa and Professor Kojo Ansah Koram, Epidemiologist, Former Director Noguchi Memorial Research Institute.
According to the WHO, Africa has so far been spared an explosion in COVID-19 case numbers, partially because of prompt action by governments to implement lockdowns and physical distancing, alongside effective public health measures to test, trace and treat have slowed down the spread of the virus.
The first country to implement a lockdown in the WHO African Region was Rwanda on 21 March, since then 11 countries have followed. A further 10 have instituted partial lockdowns of cities or high risk communities.
Preliminary data indicate that countries that implemented nationwide lockdowns found that the weekly increase in the number of new cases fell significantly from a 67% rise in the first week after the lockdown to a 27% rise in the second week. Furthermore, the initial analysis indicates that countries which implemented partial and targeted lockdowns along with effective public health measures may have been even more effective at slowing down the virus.
“We are still analysing the data. If further research corroborates our initial findings that targeted lockdowns, based on data and accompanied by public health measures contribute to flattening the COVID-19 curve, this could help balance the huge social costs of these measures for countries,” said Dr Moeti.