The director general of the World Health Organization is advising all people in Africa that they should “prepare for the worst” as the coronavirus begins to spread more rapidly across the continent.
South Africa, in particular, has become a major focus of concern, as cases have nearly doubled to 116 in just two days.
South Africa is now the country with the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa.This week, the country’s health minister Zweli Mkhize called that kind of rate “explosive.” And while the pandemic is in its early stages in the continent, health experts are advising that facilities in Africa’s wealthiest nation could be overwhelmed by the COVID-19.
“I think Africa should wake up. My continent should wake up,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who lives in Ethiopia, said, according to the Associated Press.
Experts say crowded conditions in poor areas could lead to even faster transmission.
“We have low-income workers who cannot afford to self-isolate or take time off work,” public health expert Dr. Atiya Mosam said.
Others wonder how someone can self-quarantine in a crowded slum. Additionally, Africa has several of the world’s fastest-growing cities.
Wednesday saw sub-Saharan Africa record its second death from the coronavirus. It happened in Burkina Faso, which holds one of the continent’s highest concentration of cases.
In Ethiopia, the U.S. Embassy noted a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment after cases emerged there. “Reports indicate that foreigners have been attacked with stones, denied transportation services, being spat on, chased on foot, and been accused of being infected with COVID-19,” a security alert said.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, announced restrictions on the entry of travelers from countries with more than 1,000 coronavirus cases, including China and the United States, and suspended visas on arrival for their citizens.
Health experts from some 20 African nations recently participated in a video conference with doctors in China on how to contain the virus.
“This is an extremely important step in terms of knowledge share,” said Kenya’s cabinet health secretary, Mutahi Kagwe.
For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
(Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)