COVID-19: Community transmission detected in 12 African countries

Number of cases in Africa jump 3 times in 1 week

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Monday 30 March 2020

Africa saw a three-fold jump in the number of those infected by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in just a week, with the number of deaths increasing by four times as well.

There were 4,400 cases of infection confirmed across 46 African countries as of March 29, 2020, up from 1,491 cases a week ago.

The number of deaths increased to 139, a jump from 33 deaths reported last week in 22 countries.

The number of cases in South Africa rose to 1,280, amid a nationwide lockdown announced to contain the spread of the deadly disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The country registered two deaths just as it entered lockdown, according to a statement released by its health department on March 29.

Three countries in north Africa — Egypt, Algeria and Morocco — were the other hotspots, with a spike in the number of confirmed cases and deaths.

The three countries accounted for over 65 per cent of deaths in the continent due to COVID-19, with a total of 90 deaths.

The most number of reported deaths from COVID-19 were in Egypt (36 deaths), followed by Algeria (29) and Morocco (25).

Community transmission in 12 countries

Community transmission was established in at least 12 countries in Africa, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in its recent estimates of the pandemic in the region.

These include Algeria, Senegal, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria and Rwanda.

Algeria had around 34 cases of local transmission, followed by Senegal (18) and South Africa (14).

Local infection in Senegal and Algeria occurred in the context of clusters of cases.

All 18 locally infected cases in Senegal belong to a cluster in the Diourbel region while in Algeria they were spread across 13 provinces. Of the 34 locally infected cases in Algeria, 17 belong to the same cluster.

WHO is concerned over this trend since most of the low-income African countries had several vulnerabilities.

Fragile health systems to cope up with high caseloads, high prevalence of HIV, malnutrition and a rising incidence of non-communicable and other chronic illnesses were prevalent in all these countries.

Countries that report sporadic cases and clusters of cases can suppress and control the disease by isolating, testing and treating confirmed cases as well as meticulously trace all potential contacts.

Countries experiencing community transmission should adapt wide-ranging mitigation measures to slow transmission of the virus and reduce the burden on the health system, the WHO said.

It is crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission.

It would be a major challenge for countries with weak health systems to deal with the pandemic if there would be sustained community transmission, warned the WHO

Countries were asked to promote strict adherence to social-distancing measures and good personal hygiene practices by the WHO.

The governments of African countries were advised to focus on the need to scale up their preparedness, readiness and response capabilities, while preparing for all possible scenarios.

Zimbabwe became the third African country to declare a 21-day total lockdown, after Rwanda and South Africa.

The country goes into lockdown from March 30, 2020

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