Coronavirus cases top 100,000 across Africa, WHO says

Cheryl Sanders
May 25, 2020

More than 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Africa.

With only 3,100 confirmed coronavirus deaths there, experts believe that Africa "appears to be taking a different pathway", according to a new World Health Organization report.

In comparison, when Europe reported 100,000 cases, death rates were already close to 5,000.

The report noted that cases are still on the rise in Africa and "while overall it took 52 days to reach the first 10,000 cases, it took only 11 days to move from 30,000 to 50,000 cases".

African countries should use antibody tests to determine whether the slower spread and lower death rates of the new coronavirus are due to incomplete data or a more resilient population, former United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair said on Friday.

Experts warn that Africa's figures are likely to underestimate the true scale of the pandemic there, due to lack of testing capacity.

"For now Covid-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world", said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. "But we must not be lulled into complacency as our health systems are fragile and are less able to cope with a sudden increase in cases".

The low mortality rate, now around 3%, may be because of the continent's low median age but the WHO's Executive Director Mike Ryan said he still is concerned about the ease with which the disease will spread, particularly as there are "significant gaps" in intensive care services, medical oxygen and ventilation. Lesotho, which is the latest country to record a case in Africa, still has only one confirmed case. In the past week, four African countries had an increase in virus cases of over 100%.

Officials said case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as in other regions and the continent has not experienced the high mortality rate as seen in some parts of the world.

Where it stands: South Africa is reporting the most cases, according to the WHO.

What they're saying: "We don't know what the impact of this will be in undernourished children with chronic malnutrition, we don't know what the impact of this will be in overcrowded refugee camps", Michael Ryan, a senior advisor on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative said at a briefing on Friday.

About half of the countries in Africa are experiencing community transmission, while more than 3,400 health care workers have been infected.

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