Africa’s COVID-19 death toll surpasses Ebola fatality, says WHO

Africa’s COVID-19 death toll surpasses Ebola fatality, says WHO

Total of 11,959 persons died

•Continent’s virus cases hit over 500,000

The number of people, who died of COVID-19 in Africa in less than five months have surpassed the West Africa’s 11,308 Ebola deaths of between 2014 and 2016.

The World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, yesterday confirmed that COVID-19 cases in Africa had surpassed 500,000, even as a total of 11,959 persons died of the virus within five months.

The WHO noted that the number of COVID-19-related deaths have overtaken the 11,308 lives lost in the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

“Cases have more than doubled in 22 countries in the region over the past month. Nearly two-thirds of countries are experiencing community transmission,” the update stated.

The body also stated that five countries comprising Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa account for about 42 per cent of Africa’s COVID-19 cases, even as South Africa alone accounts for 29 per cent of the continent’s total cases.

“However, the accelerating growth trend is not uniform across the continent, with some countries recording a steady rise in cases, indicating a protracted pandemic.

“Eritrea, Gambia, Mali, Seychelles and Togo are witnessing long doubling times and low growth rates.

“Seychelles had not experienced a case in nearly two months, but in the past week had dozens of new imported cases, linked to crew members of an international fishing vessel,” WHO added.

It stressed there were also some signs of progress as 10 countries have experienced a downward trend over the past month, noting that although Egypt accounts for 15 per cent of cumulative cases, it has seen a decline in the past week.

WHO Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said: “With more than a third of countries in Africa doubling their cases over the past month, the threat of COVID-19 overwhelming fragile health systems on the continent is escalating.

“So far, the continent has avoided disaster and if countries continue to strengthen key public health measures such as testing, tracing contacts and isolating cases, we can slow down the spread of the virus to a manageable level,” she said.

According to WHO, 88 percent of COVID-19 infections are among people aged 60 and below, likely due to Africa’s relatively young population.

However, it added that the likelihood of dying from COVID-19 rises with increasing age and the existence of co-morbidities, with the risk of death among patients aged 60 years and above being 10 times higher, compared with those below 60.

“Communities across the continent have a crucial role to play in controlling the pandemic, especially as countries begin easing lockdowns and opening up their borders,” said the WHO Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari.

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