The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday warned Africa to “prepare for the worst” as the coronavirus begins to spread in the continent rapidly, reported Africa News.
Thirty-three of Africa’s 54 countries currently has coronavirus cases, with a total of at least 529 until Wednesday.
“I think Africa should wake up. My continent should wake up,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who hails from Ethiopia.
The warning comes as South Africa became the continent’s new focus of concern as coronavirus cases in the country nearly doubled to 116 from two days before. Earlier this week, South Africa’s health minister, Zweli Mkhize, called the huge spike in the number of covid 19 cases in the country as “explosive,” with most cases reported in sub-Saharan Africa. Fourteen of the latest cases were from local transmission and six were in children under 10.
Though the coronavirus outbreak is in its early days on the continent, health experts have warned that even facilities in South Africa could be overwhelmed by the virus’ spread. It is feared that if the coronavirus gains a solid foothold in Africa, the continent could soon replace Europe as the new center of the pandemic.
In related news, the WHO head on Wednesday announced the first vaccine trial for the deadly coronavirus has begun.
Dr. Tedros said the trial began just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China. However, he did not reveal where the trial is being conducted. While the vaccine trial is a milestone, health officials say it will take at least 12 to 18 months for a vaccine to be available for public use.
At the virtual news conference held at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, the WHO head said over 200,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed and over 8,000 deaths reported worldwide.
Health experts from some 20 African nations participated in a video conference with doctors in China on how to contain the coronavirus.