Africa: How African Countries Most Affected By Covid-19 Cope As Continent Passes One Million Cases

covid-19 coronavirus test pandemic outbreak

On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa located in Brazzaville, Congo, said over one million COVID-19 cases had been confirmed on the continent.

Despite crossing the grim milestone, Africa is the least affected region so far, accounting for only about five per cent of global cases.

Nearly 20 million infections have been reported in over 200 countries and six continents across the globe.

When the novel COVID-19 began spreading around the world, there were dire warnings about what would happen when it hit African countries.

An earlier UN estimate predicted up to 3.3 million deaths in Africa, if no interventions were put in place.

Yet, the world's poorest continent is the last region to cross a million threshold of infections.

The African Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) said Sunday that the continent has reported 1,022,084 cases and 22, 491 deaths, about five times lower than the over five million infections and more than 165,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.

Significantly, a third of all infected persons - 705,016 - in the continent of over a billion have recovered and have been discharged after treatment.

Economic Downturn

But while Africa is faring better compared to other regions, concerns have shifted from the daily rise of infections to the economic downturn, plummeting oil and commodity prices and an imploding tourism sector occasioned by the restrictions put in place to contain the disease.

The virus has spread to all 54 countries in Africa, stretching already fragile healthcare systems and crippling economies.

The pandemic has triggered the continent's first recession in 25 years, according to the World Bank.

Thousands of workers have been rendered redundant with several businesses closing up.

About 20 million jobs are at risk in Africa due to the impact of the contagion, according to an African Union (AU) study.

Sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil producers, Nigeria and Angola, alone could lose $65 billion in income, the report indicated.

In a bid to salvage their economies, several African countries have continued to ease lockdown measures, despite rising levels of infection and a general lack of testing capacity across the region.

Health experts believe official data almost certainly under-reports both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

PREMIUM TIMES enumerates how some African countries are faring amid the fight against COVID-19.

South Africa

Five months after confirming its index case in an Italian traveler, South Africa has become the epicentre of the disease in Africa.

With more than half of the infections in the continent, South Africa is among the top five hardest hit countries in the world with 553, 188 infections.

The country has however managed to limit fatalities to a little over 10,000, the lowest death toll among the hardest-hit nations.

After a strict nine-week lockdown, the country started reopening businesses and worship centres even though the contagion is showing no signs of slowing down.

Public schools reopened in June but many were forced to close again after 775 schools reported viral cases.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in late July announced closure of most public schools for a month and extended the 2020 school year into 2021.

South Africa has conducted the most tests in Africa with more than 3.2 million of the country's over 59 million population screened.

Egypt

Egypt, which reported Africa's first COVID-19 outbreak, is the second most impacted country in the continent.

More than 95,000 confirmed infections have been documented and nearly 5, 000 deaths.

Egypt has lifted its night-time curfew and allowed the opening of restaurants, cafes, cinemas and theatres at a capacity of 25 per cent. But smoking shisha pipes, popular in Egyptian cafes, remains prohibited. Mosques and churches, meanwhile, can open for daily prayers but not mass services.

Egypt has tested about 135,000 of its over 100 million population.

Nigeria

Nigeria is the third hardest hit African nation. Confirmed coronavirus infections in the country surpassed 46,000 after 453 cases, one of the lowest in the last eight days, was reported on Saturday.

Despite concerns the virus is spreading largely undetected because of a lack of testing, government buildings have opened, as have places of worship, and travel is now permitted between states.

While the authorities are gradually reopening schools, pubs and parks remain closed.

There has been a troubling uptick in mystery cases that health experts believe could upset plans of a full opening of public activities across the country.

According to the NCDC, COVID-19 situation report for the month of August, over 70 per cent (31,237) of confirmed cases are from unknown sources that contact tracers could not tie back to likely community sources -- such as spouses, co-workers, or neighbours.

But the country has had to reopen the economy as authorities seek to balance health needs with the economic needs of the populace.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has tested over 300,000 of its over 200 million population. More than 900 deaths have been recorded.

Ghana

Ghana is fourth on the list of highest number of infections in Africa.

Ghana has the highest testing rates in Africa after South Africa.

Almost 410,000 of Ghana's over 31 million population have been tested.

The West African nation was one of the first in the continent to start reopening businesses and social activities.

President Nana Akufo-Addo had in mid-June directed resumption of schools.

The reopening process was hit by a brickwall after over 300 staff and students in public schools got infected.

Nonetheless, President Akufo-Addo in his 14th address to the nation declared a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the government, stating that "life can't be permanently put on hold as the country seeks to restore some normalcy in order to revive its economy.

Algeria

Algeria is the fifth most affected country in the continent. The North African country had been relaxing anti-coronavirus measures since early June, but faced with a resurgence of infections, the government decided to extend a partial lockdown in some provinces, including the capital Algiers.

Authorities said the increase was due to the population "relaxing" and "not respecting" preventive measures.

As of Sunday afternoon, over 34,000 cases leading to more than 1,200 deaths have been recorded in Algeria.

Algeria's main virus hotspots are the provinces of Setif, Algiers and nearby Blida, which was also the epicenter early in the country's outbreak.

East Africa

The East Africa region has recorded lower number of infections than elsewhere on the continent.

Kenya has removed restrictions on travel but retained a nationwide night-time curfew.

Churches and mosques are reopening there but with restrictions on capacity, while the reopening of schools has been delayed to 2021.

In Uganda, schools and religious centres are still closed while in Tanzania, schools are open and most social activities permitted. The country never implemented a harsh lockdown and its political leaders have consistently sought to downplay the virus.

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