There are more than 600 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in 34 countries in as of 19th March, compared with 147 cases one week ago.
Twelve countries in the region are now experiencing local transmission. Although the region has seen a significant increase in confirmed cases recently, there are still fewer cases than in other parts of the world. .“The rapid evolution of COVID-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
“But we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response. Africa can learn from the experiences of other countries which have seen a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases through rapidly scaling up testing, isolating cases and meticulously tracking contacts.” Moeti said it is crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission. Such a scenario will present a major challenge to countries with weak health systems. “Ünderstanding how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve in Africa is still a work in progress. The response will need to be adapted to the African context – the demographics on the continent are very different from China, Europe, and the USA. Africa has the world’s youngest population and it appears that older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. However, preliminary analysis finds that people with underlying conditions are at higher risk. Across the region, nearly 26 million people are living with HIV. Over 58 million children have stunted growth due to malnutrition.
So it is possible that younger people will be more at risk in Africa than in other parts of the world. “COVID-19 is one of the biggest health challenges Africa has faced in a generation. We can only stop this virus through solidarity. And the world is coming together. Donors are stepping up to the plate and providing funding while the private sector in many countries are offering their support as well,” Moeti said.