According to the WHO’s Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti, the virus was spreading beyond capital cities and that a lack of tests and other supplies was hampering responses. In addition, it did not seem as if severe cases and deaths were being missed by authorities, as Africa has been the continent least affected by COVID-19.
Globally over 7, 372, 664 cases have been confirmed with more than 416,000 deaths and there are predictions of figures going up in ensuing days. Africa has currently recorded 209,380 confirmed cases and it is causing frantic measures to be implemented to stop the spread as many have attributed the spike to the easing of restrictions.
John Hopkins University and Africa Center for Disease Control on COVID-19 revealed that, the breakdown remains fluid as countries confirm cases as and when. As of May 13, every African country had recorded an infection, the last being Lesotho.
Dr. Moeti said that Africa had some 200,000 cases and 5,000 deaths with 10 countries accounting for 75% of the cases. In comparison to other countries’ statistics, it appears Africa is doing quite well, but she cautions countries to remain alert, warning that cases were likely to continue increasing for the foreseeable future.
"Even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3% of the global total, it's clear that the pandemic is accelerating".
South African Saga
In March, President Ramaphosa imposed some of the strictest lockdown measures of any country. Most workers were ordered to stay at home and in addition to the tobacco and alcohol bans, jogging, cycling and dog-walking were also prohibited. Restrictions were eased from “level 5” to “level 4” on the May 1, allowing people to exercise between 06:00 and 09:00 and were still urged to wear face masks in public and observe social distancing rules.
On June 1 however, government lifted the ban on alcohol sale which led to a disregard for social distancing as many joined long winding queues to purchase alcohol, and for a country noted for alcohol-fuelled violence according to conducted studies, is a major factor in crimes including murder, rape and assault.
In a briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Dr. Moeti said,
“South Africa has more than a quarter of the reported cases and was seeing high numbers of confirmed cases and deaths in Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces”. She added that Western Cape was looking similar to recent outbreaks in Europe and the US.
The country has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in Africa, but there are fears that a steep rise in cases could overwhelm it. South Africa's government has been praised for its early and decisive imposition of a lockdown, but the easing of restrictions in June has been accompanied by a rise in infections.
Dr. Moeti said,
"Until such time as we have access to an effective vaccine, I'm afraid we'll probably have to live with a steady increase in the region, with some hotspots having to be managed in a number of countries, as is happening now in South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon for example, which require very strong public health measures, social distancing measures to take place.”