Africa urged to remain alert over coronavirus into holiday season

Monday November 23 2020
Covid-19 Africa.

Many people in Africa spend the December holidays with their loved ones and often travel upcountry. This could see Covid-19 cases reported in areas that so far are yet to feel the brunt of the pandemic. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Nearly 20 African countries have reported a 20 per cent increase in new cases in the past one month according to the World Health Organisation. The agency issued a warning of a possible surge in Covid-19 cases as families plan end-of-year festivities.

After reporting a downward trend then a plateau, Africa has been experiencing a rise in cases since early October and the WHO said the latest increase is driven by the North African region, where temperatures are falling unlike the first wave of cases, which was triggered by hotspots in Southern Africa.

Overwhelmed facilities

The WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti called for vigilance in the next few weeks to avert a further surge that could overwhelm health systems. In particular, he cited Kenya, Morocco and South Africa where infections have been increasing.

“As we near the time of year when people spend their holidays together, there is a bigger risk of Covid-19 transmission. WHO is worried a new cluster of cases could emerge in places that have so far been unaffected as people travel or gather for festivities,” said Dr Moeti.

Speaking last week at a virtual press conference, Dr Moeti said 19 countries in Africa have reported an over 20 percent increase in new cases in the past 28 days compared with the previous four weeks.


However, 17 countries are also reporting a more than 20 per cent drop in the number of new cases over the past 28 days, compared with the previous four weeks.

Rwanda has closed 25 coronavirus treatment centres across the country following a successful reduction in positive cases. Only seven treatment cases now remain active, and the Ministry of Health is confident these are enough to handle critically ill patients across the country.

Of those still open, two are located in Kigali — including one treatment centre within the crowded Mageragera Prison — four in the eastern and southern province and one in the north.

“We closed all the treatment centres mainly because majority of the patients with minor non-symptomatic cases are treated at home,” Sabin Nsanzimana, director-general of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre told The EastAfrican.

“Those with severe coronaries symptoms only make up 30 per cent of the total positive cases and they are treated at the national treatment centres,” she added.

WHO is urging governments to conduct risk assessments at the sub-national level and identify areas of high risk and based on this analysis, local governments can adjust their public health measures accordingly.

It is also calling for community engagement to ensure all citizens in cities, districts and villages across Africa are committed to fighting the Covid-19.

Additional reporting by Ivan R. Mugisha