While fewer than 1,000 confirmed cases in Africa, nations across continent start taking containment measures.
As COVID-19 coronavirus ravaged stock markets around the globe and drove countries to shut borders and introduce lockdowns, the African continent has remained relatively unaffected — but a top health official warned this will likely not last long.
Africa should “prepare for the worst,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday, pointing out that “in other countries, we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point.”
This explosive growth could be underway in South Africa, which reported a total of 116 infections Wednesday, with about half of those confirmed within the past two days.
The surge in cases has prompted the country’s leadership to announce a state of disaster, shuttering schools for 30 days and issuing travel bans for worst-hit countries
Also Wednesday, Burkina Faso reported the first COVID-19 fatality in Sub-Saharan Africa, identified as 62-year-old lawmaker Rose-Marie Compaore.
As of Thursday, 644 coronavirus infections have been confirmed across the continent, Worldometers.info reported, with the disease claiming 17 lives.
The prospect of further spread has prompted a range of African nations to take pre-emptive containment measures, with Nigeria, where eight cases have been confirmed, banning travel to 13 countries.
Uganda, where no infections have been confirmed, banned religious gatherings and weddings, and earlier in the week, Sierra Leone, also with zero cases so far, banned gatherings with more than 100 participants.