More than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed on the African continent, and the sweep of the pandemic is accelerating, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
Officials said Thursday the coronavirus count reached the benchmark of 100,000 cases in 98 days, but it then took only 19 days to become 200,000 cases, with nearly 80 percent of all cases coming from just 10 of 54 African nations.
Five countries – Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan – account for more than 70 percent of all fatalities.
South Africa is the most affected, accounting for 25 percent of the continent’s total cases, but community transmission is happening in more than half of all countries and COVID’s reach is extending beyond urban centers.
“For now Africa still only accounts for a small fraction of cases worldwide,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (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.”
In recent weeks, countries began relaxing lockdowns to resume some economic and social activities. The shutdowns have come at considerable socioeconomic cost, WHO said.
“Stay-at-home orders and closing of markets and businesses have taken a heavy toll, particularly on the most vulnerable and marginalized communities,” Moeti said. “So, the need to balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods is a key consideration in this response, particularly in Africa.”