Africa’s total number of COVID-19 positive cases has crossed 1 million, according to a Reuters tally compiled on Thursday. The milestone came more than five months after Egypt reported the continent’s first confirmed case of coronavirus on February 14. The virus has now spread to all 54 countries on the continent of 1.2 billion people.
The continent has so far recorded 1,003,056 coronavirus cases, of which 21,983 have died and 676,395 recovered. But global health experts say the true toll is likely several times higher as there is a lack of comprehensive testing across Africa.
South Africa, which accounts for almost half of the continent’s registered cases, is the worst-affected African nation and the fifth worst-hit globally. The country has reported 538,184 cases so far since its first case on March 5, the health ministry said on Thursday. Egypt is in second place with over 95,000 confirmed infections, followed by Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Morocco and Kenya.
Notably, Tanzania and some other African countries have failed to provide any useful statistics to the World Health Organization for months.
“The continent is at a pivotal point,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, last week. “The virus has spilled out of major cities and spread into distant hinterlands. Countries need to keep apace and urgently decentralise their key response services. We can still stop Covid-19 from reaching full momentum, but the time to act is now.”
Health experts have warned that most African healthcare systems are not fully equipped to deal with the external shock of COVID-19 and are at a risk of collapsing.
Many African countries were quick enough to impose lockdowns and shut their borders early to stop the spread of the virus. But governments have mostly lifted lockdowns now, considering the damage that has happened to their economies and the risk of widespread hunger.