As coronavirus continues to affect millions globally, new infections are being recorded in thousands, daily, across Africa, a continent once perceived as a safe haven for the contagion.
Over 800,000 infections have now been recorded across Africa, according to the Africa Center for Disease Control (ACDC). Some countries in the continent are approaching a critical number of infections that can place stress on their weak health systems.
South Africa is now among the worst-hit countries in the world. With 434,200 cases and 6, 655 deaths. South Africa also has over half the reported cases on the 54-nation continent.
More than 17,000 deaths have been recorded in the continent of over a billion people. The casualties nclude the former Chief of Staff to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari; the former president of the Republic of the Congo, Jacques Joachim Yhombi-Opango, and Somalia’s former prime minister Nur Hassan Hussein.
Africa was a major concern even before the first case was reported on the continent in mid-February in Egypt.
African countries have some of the weakest health systems in the world and health experts have warned the virus could stay in parts of the continent for a long time.
Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus even under the best-case scenario, according to modeling by the Imperial College London.
Under the worst-case scenario with no interventions against the virus, Africa could see 3.3 million deaths and 1.2 billion infections, the report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa said.
As of Sunday morning, about 810,008 confirmed cases have been recorded in Africa leading to the death of 17, 088 people.
About 462,374 of the infected persons have recovered and discharged after treatment, according to data by Africa CDC.
The figures from Africa CDC showed that South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria have the highest reported cases on the continent.
South Africa accounts for the highest confirmed cases with 434,200 cases and 6,655 deaths, followed by Egypt with 91,583 cases and 4,558 deaths while Nigeria trails behind with nearly 40, 000 cases and over 850 deaths.
Ghana had recorded 31,851 cases, and 161 deaths while Algeria had 26,764 cases and 1,146 deaths.
Health Workers’ Ordeal
More than 10,000 health workers in about 40 countries have been infected with COVID-19 so far in the continent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a sign of the challenges medical staff on the frontlines of the outbreak face.
“The growth we are seeing in COVID-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections.”
So far, about 10 per cent of all cases globally are among health workers, though there is a wide range between individual countries.
In Africa, information on health worker infections is still limited, but preliminary data finds that they make up more than 5 per cent of cases in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa alone, and in four of these, health workers make up more than 10 per cent of all infections.
Inadequate access to personal protective equipment or weak infection prevention and control measures raises the risk of health worker infection. Surging global demand for protective equipment as well as global restrictions on travel has triggered supply shortages. Health workers can also be exposed to patients who do not show signs of the disease and are in the health facilities for a range of other services.
Risks may also arise when health personnel are repurposed for COVID-19 response without adequate briefing, or because of heavy workloads which result in fatigue and burnout.
In many African countries, infection prevention and control measures aimed at preventing infections in health facilities are still not fully implemented.
When WHO assessed clinics and hospitals across the continent for these measures, only 16 per cent of the nearly 30,000 facilities surveyed had assessment scores above 75 per cent. Many health centers were found to lack the infrastructure necessary to implement key infection prevention measures, or to prevent overcrowding.
“One infection among health workers is one too many,” said Ms Moeti. “Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals are our mothers, brothers, and sisters. They are helping to save lives endangered by COVID-19. We must make sure that they have the equipment, skills, and information they need to keep themselves, their patients and colleagues safe.”