Virus in every country in Africa, over 100,000 cases: WHO

Experts warn that Africa's figures are likely to underestimate the true scale of the pandemic there, due to lack of testing capacity.
Experts warn that Africa's figures are likely to underestimate the true scale of the pandemic there, due to lack of testing capacity.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • Africa has now recorded more than 100,000 cases of coro-navirus, according to an Agence France-Presse tally drawn from official figures on Friday.

Across the continent, a total of 100,002 cases had been registered as of Friday, of which 3,095 were fatal.

Countries in northern Africa have the highest death tolls, led by Egypt (696 deaths from 15,003 cases) and Algeria (575 deaths from 7,728 cases).

South of the Sahara, the highest tolls have been in South Africa (397 deaths out of 20,125 cases) and Nigeria (211 deaths from 7,016 cases).

Experts warn that Africa's figures are likely to underestimate the true scale of the pandemic there, due to lack of testing capacity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), as it announced the 100,000 mark had been reached, said the virus had spread to every country in the continent since the first case was confirmed 14 weeks ago.

It said the disease seemed to be on a different pathway in Africa than in other continents.

Case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as elsewhere and, so far, Africa has not experienced the high mortality seen in some parts of the world.

"For now, Covid-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's Africa regional director.

"It is possible our youth dividend is paying off and leading to fewer deaths. But we must not be lulled into complacency as our health systems are fragile and are less able to cope with a sudden increase in cases."

WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan told a virtual news conference in Geneva that Africa's low death toll was "really welcome, and it is a credit to the systems and countries that they are picking up cases and are able to treat".

The epidemiologist said that the picture was varied across Africa, with some countries recording a big rise in cases and others relatively stable.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline 'Virus in every country in Africa, over 100,000 cases: WHO'. Print Edition | Subscribe