Africa Sees ‘Rapid Evolution’ Of Coronavirus As The Pandemic Hits 34 Nations In The Motherland
Africa is moving quickly to implement safety precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
March 20, 2020 at 6:03 pm
As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the continent of Africa has started to race to implement strategies amid increasing reported cases.
Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said although there is a total of 34 out of 54 countries in the continent with confirmed cases, "the situation will get worse before it gets better," The New York Times reports.
“We are picking some people, but we are also missing some people,” Nkengasong said. “The situation will get worse before it gets better because the chances are clear that people have slipped through.”
Initial cases in Africa were confined to travelers abroad, mainly from Europe, but now experts are starting to see an increase of transmission through locals. World Health Organization's (WHO) Africa chief Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said the virus is "an extremely rapid evolution," according to Time.
“About 10 days ago we had about five countries,” she said.
Nigeria has restricted travelers from countries with more than 1,000 confirmed cases, totaling 13, according to CNN. The restriction will be put into place on Friday until further notice. The country has also requested for schools to shut down and citizens to limit public gatherings, including religious congregations, Quartz Africa reports.
Tunisia also barred international flights, closing their borders to contain the spread of the virus that has claimed the lives of thousands globally. Other countries including Uganda, Algeria, Kenya and several others have also enforced travel restrictions and border control.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster with 116 cases reported on Thursday, BBC News reports.
Although Rwanda has yet to report any cases as of Thursday morning, the country has been encouraging residents to practice good hygiene and handwashing at taps installed at bus stations. Kenya recently opened up a 120-bed quarantine center with testing facilities in Nairobi.
Although many African countries are enforcing safety precautions, Nkengasong criticized nations' imposition of travel bans without a long-term plan, which could possibly limit people's access to healthcare services.
“Anyone who has followed pandemics over the years, you know that that doesn’t work,” he said. “When you lock down countries, you should understand clearly how to unlock the country.”
Head of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Africa must "wake up" and prepare for the worst, BBC News reports.
Health officials warn that Africa's public health systems could become easily overwhelmed, as 16 people have died related to the virus as of Thursday.
Despite receiving harsh criticism for their handling of the virus, health experts told CNN that African countries' experience with Ebola in 2014 has prepared citizens and local governments for a global pandemic.
"We successfully managed Ebola ... and are currently managing Lassa fever. We have a strong team that is used to doing this," said Chikwe Ihekweazu, director of Nigeria's National Centre for Disease Control.