On March 15, President Ramaphosa of South Africa declared coronavirus to be a national disaster, and a Science magazine report from Cape Town called the virus a "ticking timebomb" for the African continent. African countries gained a window of opportunity in which to hold off the onslaught, thanks to their relative isolation from international air traffic and their smart preparations based on experience with Ebola. But it appears this window may now be closing.
To date, most of the cases in Africa have been imported from Europe, as illustrated by the map below from March 11. The World Health Organization and African countries have been expanding testing capacity over the last few weeks, and travel restrictions are now being enacted, particularly on Europe, North America, and other highly affected areas. But it is increasingly likely that community transmission is beginning, as happened several weeks ago in the United States.
The most important personal advice which I am hearing repeatedly from well-informed Facebook friends in Italy, Mozambique, and the United States is to take the need for social distancing seriously. In other words, stay at home as much as possible and minimize the chances for the virus to spread.
For a clear explanation, visit https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/13/what-is-social-distancing/
AfricaFocus readers are concentrated in North America, Africa, and Europe, and most of you are probably receiving good information from local health authorities. This very short bulletin from AfricaFocus suggests additional sources that I have found useful, with particular reference to the situation in Africa.
Additional updates may be posted on the AfricaFocus Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AfricaFocus/
For regularly updated and reliable data, you can visit the WHO Africa portal at https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus-covid-19
A custom Google News search for articles in the 7 days preceding your search is available at https://tinyurl.com/corona-africa
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on health, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-health.php
-- Editor's Note
Response Measures in Africa
[JHU - to subscribe to their daily newsletter on COVID-19, which includes updates worldwide as well as in the United States, use this link.]
The WHO Regional Office for Africa has reported 417 COVID-19 cases across 29 countries on the continent of Africa. Several new countries confirmed their first cases of COVID-19: Liberia, Tanzania, and Eritrea. Liberia's first case is the head of the country's Environmental Protection Agency, who tested positive after recent travel to Switzerland.
In an effort to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission, Ghana has instituted nationwide social distancing measures, including school closures, cancellation of all public gatherings (for the next 4 weeks), enhanced hygiene and sanitation in public spaces like restaurants and supermarkets, and enhanced hygiene for public transportation vehicles and terminals. Private funeral/burial services will be permitted, but no more than 25 people can attend. Ghana's President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also emphasized the importance of scaling up domestic manufacturing and production capacity, including for products like masks and hand sanitizer, to ensure Ghana's self-sufficiency during this and future responses. Also, the Ghana Health Service published a travel advisory, which discourages foreign travel to Ghana until further notice. Any foreign national arriving from a country that has reported more than 200 COVID-19 cases will not be permitted to enter Ghana. Those who are permitted to enter Ghana, including citizens or residents, will be required to undergo 14-day self-quarantine.
Similarly Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that Kenya will suspend the entry of all travelers arriving from countries that have confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the next 30 days. Additionally, anyone who arrived in Kenya in the last 14 days must undergo quarantine. Schools and universities are also suspended nationwide, and businesses are directed to support remote work where possible. President Kenyatta also encouraged Kenyans to use credit cards and mobile pay to reduce the use of cash and to avoid gatherings, including religious services, weddings, and funerals.
Coronavirus Updates – Global and General Background
For general background one of the most usable sites is https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/, the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Among useful pages on that site are an infographic with basic facts and an explanation of social distancing.
Much additional information can be found on the website of the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus) and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).
For regularly updated statistical data on cases around the world, there are two sites which provide good visualizations of the situation. https://ncov2019.live/data was launched by a 17-year old student in Seattle, Washington, the earliest location of large-scale transmission of the virus in the United States. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html provides more fine-grained data.
A very useful explanation of how the virus spread in South Korea is available from Reuters.
Coronavirus Updates – Africa-specific Information
The Africa office of the World Health Organization regulates updates data on coronavirus on the continent, including situation reports, news articles, and a map-based dashboard. The link to the website is https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus-covid-19
For articles on coronavirus in Africa in the last 7 days (from the time of your search), you can use this customized Google News search: https://tinyurl.com/corona-africa
The most helpful detailed single article I have found is this Science magazine report from Cape Town dated March 15: 'A ticking time bomb': Scientists worry about coronavirus spread in Africa.
A few additional articles I have found of particular interest in recent days:
March 16 – Latest update from BBC
March 16 – Coronavirus testing in Africa, including development of new UK-Senegal rapid test.
March 15 – President Ramaphosa declares national disaster, including school closings and travel bans from highly-infected countries including the United States.
March 15 – African countries imposing travel restrictions from affected countries outside Africa.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.
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