Africa surpasses one million coronavirus cases


While Africa has so far been spared high concentrations of COVID-19 cases in communities, we are starting to see a shift. Infections on the continent are set to surpass the one-million mark in the next 48-hours.

JOHANNESBURG - Coronavirus has now infected more than one million people in Africa, but hopes that the pandemic may be peaking in some countries are mingled with fears of a second wave.

Nations across the continent have recorded 1,011,495 infections and at least 22,115 deaths, accounting for around five percent of global cases, according to an AFP tally as at 1100 GMT Friday.

Just five countries account for 75 percent of all cases, says the continent's health watchdog the Africa Centres for Diseases Control.

READ: COVID-19: SA infections lower than govt predicted - Mkhize

Some countries have recently seen declines of around 20 percent in daily cases but it is too early to confirm this as a trend, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"African countries are doing their best, despite... limitations," such as weak health systems, Mary Stephen of the WHO Africa office, told AFP Friday.

She, however, warned against the public complacency that can develop in prolonged outbreaks.

READ: COVID-19 in SA: Mkhize warns of second surge​​​​​​​

"Because we don't see many people like we used to see in Italy, like 1,000 people dying (a day), people tend to relax, they think the risk is not so much in Africa".

"We need to avoid complacency," she said in a phone interview from Brazzaville.

Countries with high infections relative to the size of their populations include South Africa, Djibouti, Gabon, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe. East African nations Rwanda and Uganda have managed to significantly slow down transmission, while Mauritius has flattened the curve.

READ: COVID-19: 24,000 health workers infected​​​​​​​

South Africa has notched up more than 538,184 infections, more than half of the continental caseload, and the fifth-biggest in the world.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Tuesday that cases in Gauteng appeared to be plateauing.

But he warned "we are not out of the woods yet" as the risk of a second wave remained.

READ: Demand for COVID-19 tests dropping in SA: Karim​​​​​​​

The country has some of the best healthcare facilities on the continent, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week deployed 43 experts to "strengthen" the nation's response to the pandemic.

Its problems include more than 24,000 infected health workers -- a tally bigger than the national caseload of many other African countries.

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