A member of medical staff swabs the mouth of a resident as she is testing him for a virus in Alexandra, South Africa, on March 31, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
The number of COVID-19 cases in Africa has risen to over one million with the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that 1,022,084 cases had been confirmed by Sunday with 22,966 deaths and 723,688 recoveries.
The continent's worst-hit nation is South Africa which has so far registered 545,476 infections and is the fifth-highest nation globally after the US, Brazil, India and Russia. Egypt has recorded 95,147 COVID-19 cases while the figure in Nigeria is 45,687.
"Africa crossed the important threshold of 1 million coronavirus cases on the continent. As more cases are detected beyond major cities, WHO-Africa is supporting countries to decentralize testing, tracing, isolation and treatment," Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said on Friday.
According to the figures from the Africa CDC, 10 countries account for 89 percent of all reported COVID-19 cases in the African region. These are South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Madagascar with South Africa accounting for more than half of the continent's confirmed cases.
Moeti said the cases are a small fraction of the global count but low testing in many African countries means infections have been under-reported. She added that while testing facilities have increased in some countries compared to when the outbreak began in February, Africa still fell behind the global benchmark.
In total, African nations have so far conducted 8.8 million tests since the pandemic began. However, this is well below the Africa CDC's goal of 13 million tests per month.
"We have conducted about 8.8 million tests and Africa CDC has been instrumental in distributing more than 5 million of these tests. However, this is not enough, we should be carrying out about 13 million tests which will represent just 1 percent of the continent of 1.3 billion people," John Nkengasong, the director of Africa CDC, said in a statement on Friday.
"As the pandemic continues to gain momentum in Africa, we must increase compliance to the public health and social measures so we can protect ourselves and protect our economy. We must increase mass wearing of masks as we expand testing and treatment services," he added.
In addition to the rapid spread of the virus in the African continent, the Africa CDC said eight African countries have reported higher coronavirus fatality rates compared to the global average, namely Chad, Sudan, Niger, Liberia, Egypt, Mali, Burkina Faso and Angola.
On Friday, the first members of a surge team of health experts from the World WHO arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, to bolster the country's response to COVID-19.
"As the impact of the virus intensifies in a number of hotspots in Africa, so too are WHO's efforts. At the request of the South African government, our experts will be embedded with the national response teams, working closely with local public health officials to address some of the urgent challenges the country is currently facing," Moeti said.