COUNTRIES in Africa need urgent help to build up their health systems as the novel coronavirus has been spreading rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa in recent days, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official warned on Monday.
Although the number of cases in several countries is still low, the rate of increase has been very high last week, WHO emergency operations chief Mike Ryan said, highlighting Namibia with 69 per cent, Botswana with 66 per cent and Zambia with 57 per cent.
‘I am very concerned right now that we are beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa, and we need to take that very seriously,’ Ryan told a press briefing from Geneva. ‘Many of those countries exist in the midst of fragility and conflict.’
With more than 360,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 5,000 related deaths, South Africa has been hit the hardest and accounts for 61 per cent of Africa’s pandemic burden.
Ryan said that last week’s increase of around 30 per cent in South Africa was very significant in terms of absolute numbers, but still slower than other countries in the region.
While the novel coronavirus initially affected wealthier communities in South Africa, it has now established itself in poorer and rural areas, according to Ryan.
‘South Africa may, unfortunately, be a precursor,’ he said. ‘It may be a warning for what will happen in the rest of Africa.’