Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 cases in Africa much more than reported: UN

31 out of 46 African countries conducted fewer than 10 tests per 10,000 people per week, says UN health agency

COVID-19 cases in Africa much more than reported: UN


The actual number of COVID-19 infections in African countries is much more than announced due to low testing in the continent, which is now facing a high risk of virus resurgence, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Thursday.

Citing the results of its recent analysis, WHO said: “Three countries face a very high risk of COVID-19 resurgence, 20 face high risk, 22 moderate risk, and only one country faces low risk, according to the risk assessment of 46 countries in Africa.”

“Most countries in the [African] region are experiencing community transmission, yet 31 out of the 46 countries analyzed performed fewer than 10 tests per 10,000 people per week in the past four weeks,” WHO revealed.

“This suggests that the number of cases reported in the past 28 days may not reflect the true situation as countries continue to target only people with symptoms for testing,” it added.

WHO’s analysis suggests the risk of COVID-19 resurgence remains high in many African countries. Besides low testing, poor adherence to public health measures, mass gatherings such as recent political rallies in countries like Benin, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Guinea caused a spike in infections.

“With over 4.5 million confirmed cases and more than 120,000 deaths to date, the African continent has not seen a surge in reported cases since January and the epidemic curve has plateaued for six weeks.

“However, the relatively low number of cases has encouraged complacency and there are signs of reduced observance of preventive measures,” WHO said.

“We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security. The devastating surge of cases and deaths in India, and increases in other regions of the world, are clear signs that the pandemic is not yet over in African countries. A new upsurge of COVID-19 infections is a real risk in many countries even if the region’s case count in recent weeks appears to be stable,” WHO quoted its Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti as a warning during a virtual press conference Thursday.

“Combatting COVID-19 fatigue appears to be the key battle in our collective response to the pandemic,” Moeti added.

Moeti stressed that most of the new COVID-19 infections “are still not being detected among known contacts.”

“Investigation of clusters of cases and contact tracing are worryingly low in most countries in the region. We must scale up testing including through rapid diagnostic tests to enhance response to the pandemic,” Moeti added.

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