DAKAR – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has increased faster in the last month and is expected to reach 300,000 this Sunday, as governments relax restrictions imposed to curb COVID-19, prioritizing limiting damage to economies. .
“The relaxation of the measures is linked to socioeconomic factors where it was not feasible to maintain them and also because during the confinements it was found that the number of cases did not increase as originally thought,” said Michel Yao, responsible for emergency operations. of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa.
“With these criteria, the lack of confinement began, with an increase in cases that shows that there are still many efforts to be made,” Yao added.
Unlike the rest of the regions, where the 2 million positives have either been exceeded or almost exceeded, the African continent is the least affected, with 297,574 confirmed cases according to the latest count based on government statements and data that Johns Hopkins University tabulates.
It is also the region – not counting Oceania – with the least deaths so far, with 7,932 deaths from the virus, although the WHO estimated in early May that 190,000 people would die of COVID-19 in Africa in one year.
“The estimate that was made was based on the case that Africa was hit by a general contagion and at the moment we are not in that scenario, but we fear that if we do not pay attention it will become general. The current situation in South Africa shows that it can be degraded very fast, “Yao explained.
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THE PACE WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE
Since the first case declared in the continent, on February 14 in Egypt, it took 98 days to reach 100,000 cases, but it doubled them in 18 days and it is expected to increase throughout Sunday to 300,000.
And it can continue to increase “because in the countries with the largest number of cases there is still an upward trend, they are countries that have not yet reached their peak,” Yao said.
The increase in cases in Africa is, however, uneven, with South Africa being the country that has reported the most positives (and also carried out the most tests): with 92,681, it represents more than 31% of confirmed cases across the continent.
South Africa is followed by Egypt, with almost 54,000 cases (together they account for more than 49% of the cases on the continent) and Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria and Cameroon are the only countries out of 54 that have exceeded 10,000 confirmed cases, although they are followed by near Morocco and Sudan.
The deaths reported by COVID-19 exceeded 450,000 worldwide on Friday.
EARLY MEASURES OR INSUFFICIENT TESTS
The debate about the limited scope of the coronavirus on the continent is located among those who believe that it is the result of the African countries taking early measures – as soon as the first cases were known or even when none had yet been declared in their territory – and among those who consider that the official figures are not exact and are not conducting enough tests.
“Rapid and early action by African countries has helped keep the numbers low, but constant vigilance is needed to prevent COVID-19 from overwhelming health centers,” the regional director of the organization said last week. WHO for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti.
For Yao, the number of tests carried out “shows the current situation of the epidemic in Africa because if there were a severe number of massive cases or asymptomatic cases, we would have perceived it.”
“We cannot identify all cases, but at least most countries make an effort to test those who are symptomatic and their families,” said Yao, recalling that in the most developed countries, not all asymptomatic cases can be detected and that neither You have the ability worldwide to do a massive test and know the exact extent of the pandemic.
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HIGH ECONOMIC COST
The measures have quickly affected the economy of the citizens, especially the poorest who are supported by the income they earn on a day-to-day basis and have brought a very high economic cost.
The confinements, the closing of markets or the curfews have caused discontent and protests in several African countries in recent weeks and many governments have chosen to relax measures to fight against COVID-19, despite the fact that the number of cases continues. growing in many of them.
“Orders to stay home and the closing of markets and businesses have come at a high cost, particularly in the most vulnerable and marginalized communities,” Moeti said, adding “the need” to seek a balance “between saving lives and protecting the means of life “, particularly in Africa.
However, African governments have maintained measures such as the mandatory use of a mask, physical distance, and good hand hygiene.
But, while most of the countries of the continent make efforts to end the pandemic in their territories, others are acting with a lack of transparency or denying its existence or the gravity of the situation.
Convergence for Social Democracy of Equatorial Guinea (CPDS), an opposition political party, criticized this Friday in a statement that the authorities had stopped providing data on contagions and deaths from coronavirus on April 28 and that, “due to misunderstanding with the Government “, the local representation of the WHO stopped doing it on May 24.
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According to the statement, from the Government contradictory figures have been given, declaring 2,049 confirmed cases on June 8 and five days later 1,664 positives, 32 deaths and 515 healed, figures that have not been updated since then.
In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has underestimated the pandemic and earlier this month stated that “the COVID-19 disease was eliminated thanks to God” for the prayers of Tanzanians in a country where the coronavirus figures stopped updating to end of April, freezing in 509 cases, 21 deceased and 183 cured.
“I want to urge Tanzanians not to accept donations of masks, but to tell donors to go and wear them with their wives and children,” Magufuli said.
Also in Burundi, the government expelled WHO representatives in the country in mid-May, accusing them of manipulating the outbreak, and then-President Pierre Nkurunziza declared that God had “cleared the coronavirus from Burundi’s sky.”
On June 8, Nkurunziza died of “cardiac arrest”, according to the official version, but this week some local media said it was due to a coronavirus. If confirmed, he would be the first head of state to have died of the disease.
His wife had tested positive for COVID-19 and at the time was in a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, receiving treatment.
For the person in charge of the WHO emergency operations in Africa, these countries are “particular” situations and he ensures that this UNA organization works and encourages them to share their data because “it is of course (about health) the population of those countries but also from neighboring countries “and the international community.