Africa could become the next epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, WHO warns

It comes after the World Health Organization warned that the continent could become the next epicentre of the pandemic. African countries have accounted for 26,000 cases as of today, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The figure is up form just over 16,000 cases reported a week ago.

Around 1,200 people have died of Covid-19 on the continent.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in his weekly briefing today that Africa also has a “very, very limited” and “very, very strained” testing capacity.

The WHO warned the pandemic could kill more than 300,000 people and force 30 million into extreme poverty in Africa.

According to Mr Nkengasong, Africa can still avoid such a catastrophe, but testing people and contact tracing is vital.

“It all depends on what we are discussing here, which is, are you testing? Are you finding the cases? Are you isolating and tracking the contacts?” Mr Nkengasong said, adding that the WHO report “is not a prediction that means it must happen.”

Left than 500,000 have been conducted on Africa’s population of more than 1 billion.

That is just 325 people tested per 1 million people in the two months since the continent started putting measures into place to tackle the outbreak.

“If you don’t test, you don’t find. And if you don’t test, you are blinded. If you don’t test, you are not ahead of the curve,” Mr Nkengasong said.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control has a target of carrying out 1 million more tests in Africa over the next four weeks and 10 million tests in the next four months.

Mr Nkengasong said: “I’d like to make sure I make this very clear,

“It is an uphill battle to build health systems while you need them….That is what we are actually doing now.

“We are playing catch-up and that is a very, very tough thing to do.”

South Africa has the highest number of reported cases with around 3,300.

However, the country has put in place an efficient testing program.

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The country has conducted over 130,000 tests, according to its health minister.

“They are starting to see a bending of their curve,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

But according to Mr Moeti, South Africa’s early signs of success in the fight against the virus are being intensified “concerning increases” in confirmed cases in some countries in West Africa and East Africa.

Nigeria has reported 873 cases of COVID-19 and 28 deaths but had conducted just 7,153 tests as of Wednesday, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the Nigerian center, said: “The truth is, we have to work with what we have. We definitely didn’t start at the baseline where South Africa started,

“Many lessons will be learned here and around the world.

“But the middle of a crisis is not the time you can suddenly build up an infrastructural base that you need 20 or 30 years to build.”

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