The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, says the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Africa has increased to over 11,900.
The UN’s health agency gave the update on its official twitter account @WHOAFRO on Friday.
“COVID19 cases in Africa rise to over 11,900 – with 1,586 recoveries and 608 deaths reported,’’ it said.
The breakdown in the WHO African Region COVID-19 dashboard showed that South Africa, Algeria and Cameroon had continued to top the list of countries with the highest reported cases.
South Africa has 1,934 cases and 18 deaths followed by Algeria with 1,666 cases and 235 deaths, while Cameroon has 730 confirmed cases with 10 deaths.
It also showed that the countries with the lowest confirmed cases are South Sudan and Burundi, which had reported three cases each with zero death.
The second-lowest confirmed cases of COVID-19 countries in Africa are the Gambia and Sao Tome, which have confirmed four cases each while the latter has zero death, the former (Gambia) has recorded one death.
Mauritania is in the third category with the lowest cases as the country has recorded six confirmed cases with no death.
Also, the dashboard showed that COVID-19 cases had risen to 288 in the past two days from 254 confirmed cases with seven deaths in Nigeria.
However, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said COVID-19 had the potential not only to cause thousands of deaths but to also unleash economic and social devastation.
In a statement posted on the agency’s website, the regional director said the virus had continued to spread on the continent.
“Its spread beyond major cities means the opening of a new front in our fight against this virus.
“This requires a decentralised response, which is tailored to the local context.
“Communities need to be empowered and provincial and district levels of government need to ensure they have the resources and expertise to respond to outbreaks locally,” Moeti said.
WHO says it has been working with governments across Africa to scale up their capacities in critical response areas.
It listed the areas of a response as coordination, surveillance, testing, isolation, case management, contact tracing, infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement, and laboratory capacity.
It said Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria had expanded national testing to multiple labs, allowing for decentralised testing.
“These combined measures will ensure the rapid identification of cases, the tracking down and quarantining of contacts and the isolation and treatment of patients.
“It is also crucial that people are provided with accurate information which will promote healthy behaviours.
“Protection of health workers is a vital component of the response and when governments implement physical distancing measures, the basic needs of people should be taken into account,” WHO noted.
The statement quoted Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, as saying: “Africa still has an opportunity to reduce and slow down disease transmission.
“All countries must rapidly accelerate and scale up a comprehensive response to the pandemic, including an appropriate combination of proven public health and physical distancing measures.
“Within that process, Member States should target effective control of the outbreak, but plan for the worst.
“Early isolation of all cases, including mild cases, is one of the key control measures, along with early detection, early treatment and contact tracing.
“Timely and accurate epidemiological data is one of the most important tools to inform and drive the response.
“We must protect our health care workers and ensure that they are appropriately equipped – they are on the front lines and need our unwavering support. We owe them a great deal.”
There is concern about the impact of the pandemic on countries with fragile health systems and those experiencing complex emergencies.
WHO further said the international community should extend technical and financial support to these countries to enhance response capacities to minimise the spread of the outbreak.
It said some countries in Africa might not have adequate intensive care unit capacity such as beds, ventilators and trained personal.
“It is critical that countries do all they can to prevent this outbreak from intensifying further. This means a strong public health response by every arm of government and every part of society.
“WHO is working across Africa to deliver essential equipment, train health workers, clinicians and public servants on how best to respond to COVID-19, and to tailor global guidance to challenging local contexts.
“We are also working to address global market failures and ensure a reliable and equitable distribution of essential supplies and equipment to low- and middle-income countries, including those in Africa,” said the statement.