By Mary Hearty

COVID-19 cases have doubled in Africa since measures put in place to suppress this disease including travel ban were eased in some countries. With more than 890,000 cases and about 18,000 lives lost to this disease in Africa, the cases are projected to pass the 1 million mark this week.

During a virtual conference hosted on 30th July by WHO regional office for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa confirmed this.

“We have seen in Africa than the rest of the world that when measures to suppress COVID-19 are eased, cases keep up,” Dr Moeti stated.

She explained that in over 20 African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Madagascar, there were more new cases in the past 7 days compared to the previous weeks.

On the other hand, South Africa reported a slow increase in cases in the past 7 days and in the previous week, even though it continues to account for majority of the cases.

Due to this, Dr Moeti reiterated an urgent need for international solidarity in support to suppress this disease during this crisis.

“Governments, partners and communities must work together to suppress COVID-19 transmission to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic on individuals, families, households and economies,” She said.

Dr Moeti added: “It is important that authorities and all communities have capacities in place to act quickly and comprehensively with strong surveillance, testing, isolation, and contact tracing. As these are the key strategies that need to be in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.”

Six months ago, WHO declared the novel Coronavirus, a public health emergency an international concern. Nevertheless, during that time, there were no confirmed cases in Africa.

Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean who was also present, gave a statement on how people need to protect themselves against this pandemic.

According to Dr Al-Mandhari, a spike in Covid-19 cases calls for increased vigilance by both countries and communities to help stop the spread of this disease.

“WHO released guidelines to help countries mitigate the spread of this pandemic including isolation of suspected cases, isolation of all cases, protection of health workers, tracing of contacts, and global management of points of interest,” Dr Al-Mandhari explained.

He added: “If done efficiently and effectively at the right time and scheme, these interventions can bring a change and stop the disease from spreading.”

Additionally, he restated the guidelines WHO issued for the public 6 months ago to protect themselves, including wearing of masks, social distancing and hand washing. Since individual actions determined if the disease would continue to spread or stop.

WHO also called for a concern for countries opening borders due to socio-economic impacts brought by this pandemic, as this pose a great risk of the disease spreading further across the continent.

“Many countries are opening border due to the economy as well as social impacts. If the restrictions are not lifted with more assessed approach, we are extremely concerned about the risk of further spread of this disease in Africa and globally,” Dr Al-Mandhari said.

Again, he encouraged governments to communicate clearly to the public because misinformation causes fear and panic among the public thus contributing to spread of the pandemic.

WHO advices governments, all sectors to work collectively through collaborations to help mitigate further spread of this pandemic.

“As we are just together to this new normal, I ask governments, partners and communities globally, keep in mind that no one is safe until we are all safe,” Dr Moeti said.