The World Health Organisation’s warning came as Sub-Saharan Africa recorded its first Covid-19 death
WHO: ‘Africa should wake up’
Armel Baily and David Esnault - The head of the World Health Organisation says that while Africa so far had seen few cases of Covid-19, the continent should "prepare for the worst". "Africa should wake up," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
His warning came as Sub-Saharan Africa recorded its first Covid-19 death, a high-ranking politician in Burkina Faso. Ghebreyesus pointed out that "in other countries, we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point".
Sebao Guesthouse Africa has lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, but in the past few days has seen a significant rise in cases. Experts have repeatedly warned about the perils for the continent, given its weak health infrastructure, poverty, conflicts, poor sanitation and urban crowding.
First death Medical authorities in the poor Sahel state of Burkina Faso announced Wednesday that the number of infections there had risen by seven to 27 - and that one of them, a 62-year-old diabetic woman, had died overnight. The country's main opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), said in a statement that the victim was its lawmaker Rose-Marie Compaore, the first vice president of the parliament. South Africa, the continent's most industrialised economy, reported a more than one-third jump in cases, with 31 new infections bringing its tally to 116. Nearby Zambia announced its first two confirmed cases - a couple that returned to the capital Lusaka from a 10-day holiday in France. As of Wednesday, a tally of reported cases compiled by AFP stood at more than 600 for all of Africa. Of these, 16 cases have been fatal: six in Egypt, six in Algeria, two in Morocco, one in Sudan and one in Burkina Faso. Those figures are relatively small compared to the rest of world - the global death toll has passed 8 800 with almost 210 000 total infections. WHO chief Tedros said Sub-Saharan Africa had recorded 233 infections, but warned the official numbers likely did not reflect the full picture.
"Probably we have undetected cases or unreported cases," he said. And even if there truly were no more than 233 cases of the disease in Africa, he warned that that number could scale up quickly. Watching from afar as disaster unfolds in Asia and Europe, some African countries have wasted little time in ordering drastic measures. ‘Disease hotspot belt’ A 2016 analysis by the Rand Corporation, a US think-tank, found that of the 25 countries in the world that were most vulnerable to infectious outbreaks, 22 were in Africa - the others were Afghanistan, Yemen and Haiti.
The report identified a "disease hotspot belt" extending across the southern rim of the Sahara through the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, where many countries are struggling with conflicts. "Were a communicable disease to emerge within this chain of countries, it could easily spread across borders in all directions, abetted by high overall vulnerability and a string of weak national health systems along the way," the report warned. Tedros recommended that mass gatherings be avoided, urging Africa to "cut it from the bud, expecting that the worst can happen"