As Africa marks six months of COVID-19, having been first detected on the continent since February 14, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said a sure way to curbing the spread of the pandemic and reducing deaths was to strengthen the collective response from the continent.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said countries in Africa would win the battle if they bolstered their response at the community level. The COVID-19 response must be integrated into the fabric of every health district, she added. According to Moeti, “In Africa, curbing COVID-19 is a marathon and not a sprint.” While the virus has raced through many other regions of the world, the pandemic’s evolution on the African continent has been different, she noted. Preliminary analysis by the WHO finds that an exponential surge in cases, which peaks about two to three weeks later, is not occurring in Africa. Instead, many countries are experiencing a gradual rise in COVID-19 cases and it is difficult to discern a specific peak.
Transmission patterns also differ between countries, but more importantly within countries. At the onset, COVID-19 mainly affected capital cities. However, the virus is now moving from high density urban areas to informal settlements and then onward to rural areas that have a lower population density. “In Africa, curbing COVID- 19 is a marathon and not a sprint,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We are observing multiple local outbreaks each with their own infection patterns and peaks. It is by bolstering the response at the community level that we will win this race.
The COVID-19 response must be integrated into the fabric of every health district.” In the past six months, countries have made a lot of progress. Many African governments were quick to impose lockdowns and key public health measures that helped to slow down the virus. Over time, preventive diagnostic and treatment measures have been strengthened. All countries can now diagnose COVID-19, with 14 performing over 100 tests per 10,000 population. Production of oxygen, critical for severely-ill COVID-19 patients, has also considerably increased, with the number of oxygen plants in the region rising to 119 from 68 at the onset, while the number of oxygen concentrators has more than doubled to over 6,000.