Nations battle to contain spread after World Health Organization warns of 10 million cases within six months
African nations are banking on aggressive screening and testing strategies as their best and possibly only defence against the Covid-19 virus.
After a slow start, a sudden rise of more than 40% in the number of Covid-19 cases on the continent in the last 10 days to 28,000 and a similar increase in the number of deaths to 1,300 has worried specialists.
The World Health Organization has warned of 10 million cases on the continent within three to six months, though experts say that the death toll could be lower if authorities are able to move swiftly to contain outbreaks of the disease.
We are at the beginning in Africa, Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHOs Health Emergencies Programme, said last week.
Though some of the worst effects of infection may be mitigated by the relative youth of many people on the continent, others may be made more vulnerable by malnutrition or existing conditions, such as HIV.
Under-resourced health systems are unlikely to cope with a significant surge of those infected by the disease. Provision of intensive care facilities on the continent is grossly inadequate. Many countries with populations numbering tens of millions have only a handful of ventilators.
So far it has been difficult to fully grasp the extent of the spread of the disease in Africa, as testing has been patchy.
Djibouti has recorded 98.6 cases per 100,000 people, the highest prevalence on the continent. But the tiny country has conducted just over 10,000 tests, as many as neighbouring Ethiopia, which has more than 100 million people.