File: South Africa has reported 160 new deaths in the last 24-hours. AFP/Marco Longari
JOHANNESBURG - Africa will continue see new coronavirus cases as countries begin to reopen lockdown-devastated economies, but increases will not be exponential, the head of the African branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.
Africa last week surpassed the figure of one million infections, with the continent's most developed economy, South Africa, accounting for more than half of those cases.
Seeking to strike a balance between saving lives and avoiding worse economic damage, many African governments are beginning to remove mobility restrictions imposed at the start of the pandemic and resuming business, including tourism.
"We are very much expecting to see continuing increase in cases, a gradual increase... some upticks as these measures are being released," WHO Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti told journalists.
But "we don't expect to see actually an exponential increase. We hope very much this is not going to happen like we have seen in other parts of the world," Moeti said speaking from South Africa in a virtual news briefing.
The briefing was held to mark six months since the first case was detected on the continent.
Egypt was the first country to detect coronavirus on February 14. Since then Africa has registered 1,076,744 cases and 24,282 cases according to an AFP tally on Thursday at 1500 GMT.
Countries that have started to experience rising numbers after easing of restrictions include Kenya, Algeria and Ghana, she said.
And other countries that have seen rising new cases over the past two weeks include Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia and Namibia.
"We will have to contend with this increase... until such a time (as) we manage to have access to a vaccine and manage to deploy the vaccine. So this will continue until well into next year," she said.
Moeti arrived on Wednesday as part of 43-member team of WHO experts, who are being deployed to help South Africa respond to the pandemic.