South Africa’s growing COVID-19 epidemic should be an alert to the rest of the continent to strengthen disease surveillance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.
South Africa reported a surge of 13,373 new cases on Saturday, the fourth largest globally.
Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe also reported significant increases in cases over the past week, WHO’s top emergencies expert Mike Ryan told a news conference.
“Even though the numbers in those other countries are smaller I think what we are starting to see is a continued acceleration of transmission in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and I think that has to be taken very, very seriously,” he said.
“South Africa may unfortunately be a precursor, it may be a warning for what will happen in the rest of Africa. So I think this isn’t just a wake-up call for South Africa ... we need to take what is happening in Africa very very seriously.”
The WHO also warned that indigenous communities comprising half a million people around the world are especially at risk from the pandemic due to often poor living conditions.
The WHO boss urged nations to take all necessary health precautions, with special emphasis on contact tracing. “We do not have to wait for a vaccine. We have to save lives now,” he said.
20 July, 2020