The Covid-19 pandemic has reached a milestone in Africa, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
It noted that the virus has now spread to every country in the continent since the first case was confirmed in the region 14 weeks ago.
“Despite crossing this threshold, the pandemic, which has struck with such devastating force in much of the world, appears to be taking a different pathway in Africa,” the WHO said.
Case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as in other regions and so far Africa has not experienced the high mortality seen in some parts of the world, it said.
It noted that there are 3,100 confirmed deaths on the continent.
#COVID19 update in Africa (As of 23 May 2020, 9 am East Africa Time)
54 @_AfricanUnion Member States reporting 103,933 cases, 3,183 deaths, and 41,473 recoveries.
More information at https://t.co/vEZ4eupedf#COVID19 #FactsNotFear #AfricaResponds pic.twitter.com/GlqVUAqYT5
— Africa CDC (@AfricaCDC) May 23, 2020
By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in the WHO European region, deaths stood at more than 4,900.
Early analysis by the WHO suggests that Africa’s lower mortality rate may be the result of demography and other possible factors.
It noted that Africa is the youngest continent demographically with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25.
Older adults have a significantly increased risk of developing a severe illness. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60 years.
The WHO said that African governments have made difficult decisions and were quick to impose confinement measures, including physical and social distancing, which will have significant socio-economic costs.
“For now Covid-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
“It is possible our youth dividend is paying off and leading to fewer deaths. But we must not be lulled into complacency as our health systems are fragile and are less able to cope with a sudden increase in cases.”
The health body noted that testing rates remain low and many countries continue to require support to scale-up testing. There is a need to expand the testing capacity in urban, semi-urban and rural areas, and provide additional test kits, it said.
Cases continue to rise in Africa and while overall it took 52 days to reach the first 10,000 cases, it took only 11 days to move from 30,000 to 50,000 cases.
About half of the countries in Africa are experiencing community transmission.
Despite the relatively lower number of Covid-19 cases in Africa, the pandemic remains a major threat to the continent’s health systems, the WHO warned.
“Now that countries are starting to ease their confinement measures, there is a possibility that cases could increase significantly, and it is critical that governments remain vigilant and ready to adjust measures in line with epidemiological data and proper risk assessment,” it said.