Africa will likely see a resurgence of the Covid-19 disease in the coming months, experts have warned, triggering fears that the continent may not be in the clear even as it sidestepped the worst of the pandemic’s first wave.
Some countries, including Kenya and South Africa, have seen surges in positive cases following recent reopening of airports and businesses after months in lockdown.
“The continent has done very well in bending the curve where most infections peak around July and then decline steadily," said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Infection (Africa CDC). "But we are beginning to see some stagnation. The time to prepare for the second wave is truly now.”
Africa has recorded nearly 1.8 million cases and 42,000 deaths.
Countries have been widely hailed for recording far fewer infections compared to Europe, North America and Asia. Many went into lockdown early on in the pandemic and have introduced prevention measures to curb spread after economic devastation forced them to open back up.
Africa is seeing a six per cent average increase in weekly infection rates. The rates vary according to region, however - east, south and north Africa are seeing surges while countries in central and west Africa are experiencing declines, according to Africa CDC.
Kenya is seeing a significant rise in cases at 45 per cent weekly. On the other hand, Sierra Leone is recording a weekly decrease of 21 per cent.
Some of the declining records could be attributed to reduced testing in some areas. In Nigeria where Covid-19 economic effects and recent widespread protests against police brutality have been on the front burner, testing numbers have dipped. Testing laboratories have complained that they receive way fewer samples than they can test.
Dr Ola Brown, who leads African healthcare innovation company, Flying Doctors says testing has been de-prioritised in countries like Nigeria, Africa's largest. Dr Brown has been at the forefront of the coronavirus fight in Nigeria, working with state governments to build treatment centres and running testing booths.
"I think honestly, for now, a lot of people have moved on from Covid. It’s not so much in people's consciousness," she said, citing low rates of death and severe symptoms.
As numbers rise again, health authorities say countries will not be able to cope with the economic fallouts of another lockdown.
Nigeria’s President Muhamadu Buhari in a statement released on Twitter on Thursday pleaded with citizens to continue to take coronavirus measures seriously.
“Looking at the trends in the other countries, we must do all we can to avert a second wave of Covid-19 in Nigeria,” President Buhari tweeted. “Our economy is too fragile to bear another round of lockdown.”
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