The milestone of one million cases of the new coronavirus was crossed Thursday in Africa, a continent which remains however the least affected in the world and where the distribution of cases is very uneven.
According to figures compiled by AFP on Friday, some 1,011,495 cases have been recorded across the continent, with at least 22,115 deaths, which represents about 5% of cases worldwide.
Only 5 of Africa’s 54 countries account for 75% of cases, according to the continent’s Center for Disease Control.
The World Health Organization (WHO) noted Thursday that several African countries had recorded in recent days a drop of about 20% in daily cases.
“We have to observe a little longer before we can say with certainty that this is a trend” which will last, said Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director of WHO.
The cases are still increasing in a dozen countries, but this increase “is not exponential”, according to the WHO which nevertheless underlines that the low level of the number of tests and the lack of material to do them remains “a constant challenge” .
“African countries are doing their best, despite the limits” to their action, such as incomplete or failing health infrastructure, said Mary Stephen, a WHO-Africa official, on Friday, while warning against any slackening. .
“As the situation is different from the one in Italy, when 1,000 people were dying a day, people tend to think that the risk is not that high in Africa. But we must avoid any negligence,” he said. -she underlined during a telephone interview.
Among the countries reporting a high number of cases per million population are South Africa, Djibouti, Gabon and Cape Verde.
Here is an update on the situation in key African countries:
Africa’s most industrialized country accounts for more than half of the continent’s confirmed cases, with 538,184 infections. It is the 5th most affected country in the world, behind the United States, Brazil, India and Russia.
The cases recorded daily are decreasing slightly, falling below the 10,000 mark against an average of 12,000 in July. More than 9,000 people perished.
“We are not done yet” with the pandemic, acknowledged Tuesday the Minister of Health, Zweli Mkwize.
He indicated that his country could “have reached the peak (of the pandemic) by the end of August”, however warning of the risk of a second wave in case of too rapid abandonment of the measures taken to contain the expansion of the virus.
South Africa imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world at the end of March, before easing it. Faced with the explosion of contaminations, schools have once again been closed for a month and a night curfew has been reinstated.
Some 24,000 health workers in South Africa have been infected with the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began in March and 181 have died from it, a number higher than in most other African countries.
South Africa has the best hospitals and health centers on the continent, but the WHO still sent 43 experts there this week to “strengthen” the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Egypt was the first African country to report a case of Covid-19 on February 14. To date, it has officially declared 95,006 cases, including 4,630 fatalities, which puts it in second place behind South Africa.
The number of daily cases has fallen from around 1,500 in July to less than 200 this week.
On July 18, Jihane al-Assal, who heads the scientific committee against the novel coronavirus, claimed that his country had “passed the peak of the pandemic”.
She announced last weekend the gradual closure of hospitals where Covid-19 patients were placed in isolation, adding however that the government was “preparing” for a possible second wave of the pandemic.
The health system has been put under great pressure to the point of being on the verge of “collapse”, according to the doctors’ union which has recorded at least 134 dead in its ranks.
A curfew imposed in March was lifted in June and scheduled domestic and international flights resumed on July 1. Tourism, a key sector for Egypt, is picking up very slowly.
Nearly 45,244 cases have been identified in the most populous country in Africa (200 million inhabitants), including 930 fatalities, placing Nigeria in third position. The daily cases which were 500 to 800 last month, have fallen to 300 or 400.
But the authorities fear an even more serious second wave. “A further increase in cases is expected” with the relaxation of restrictive measures in an attempt to stem the pandemic, said Boss Mustapha, who leads the fight against coronavirus in the presidency.
In Lagos, a megalopolis of 20 million inhabitants and epicenter of the epidemic, these measures are gradually being lifted, as evidenced by the reopening of churches and mosques on Friday.
Only 3,000 tests are done every day in Nigeria, a tenth of those done in South Africa which has a population of just 58 million.
For several weeks, Algeria has been facing an upsurge in the pandemic: 1,273 deaths and more than 33,626 cases were recorded with a record of 675 cases on July 24.
After the first partial deconfinement measures in early June, the country has recorded an upsurge in cases.
On June 29, the government opted for “targeted containment” of localities and neighborhoods in the grip of outbreaks of Covid-19 infection. It also decided to keep its borders closed. Algerians spent a gloomy Eid el Adha party under confinement. The authorities have called for avoiding family visits and it is forbidden to leave or go to 29 of the 48 wilayas (prefectures) of the country.
The spread of the pandemic has caused great damage to the country’s economy, which is also facing the collapse in oil prices. Many traders, especially restaurant owners, cafetiers or owners of travel agencies, risk going bankrupt.
In less than three weeks in July, the number of cases increased significantly in Ethiopia and Thursday, the country of some 110 million people, recorded more than 20,000 cases and more than 365 deaths.
If these figures remain low compared to the number of inhabitants in the second most populous country on the continent, the WHO fears that the recent riots and demonstrations linked to the murder of a popular singer belonging to the majority Oromo ethnic group, may not accelerates the transmission of the virus, the strict measures to counter it are no longer as well applied as before.
About three-quarters of the cases are in the capital Addis Ababa.
It is one of the African countries where daily infections are rising the most: the number of recorded cases doubled in ten days last month and is now 4,395, of which 97 are fatal.
With a failing health system struggling with a lack of medicines and equipment, and underpaid and overworked staff, the situation in Zimbabwe is particularly precarious.
Nurses, who have been on a pearl strike for months to demand better wages and better protection against the virus, have been joined by doctors.
At the funeral of one of his ministers who died of Covid-19, President Emmerson Mnanagwa called on health workers to act responsibly, promising that they would meet their demands, but not “at the cost of loss of lives “. “When the pandemic spreads and the death toll rises, there are no winners, none. We all die,” he said.