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As COVID-19 Cases Soar In US WHO Worried The Same May Happen In Africa

A walk up COVID-19 testing center in Nigeria via World Health Organization

Posted: July 3, 2020 at 5:23 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned the continent of Africa could see a drastic rise in COVID-19 (Coronavirus, 2019) cases similar to the current phenomena in the United States. Stats show a recent uptick in the United States is due to states not requiring masks, and those who refuse to mask or practice public distancing in public places.

“Sixteen states recommend, but do not require, its residents to wear masks in public. In those states, new coronavirus cases have risen by 84% over the last two weeks,” read an Inquirer report in late June. “In the 11 states that mandate wearing masks in public, new cases have fallen by 25% over the last two weeks,” the report continued.

On Thursday Florida reported a state record-breaking 10,109 cases. Along with Arizona, California, and Texas — Florida is the new hotbed for the virus in the United States. The National Post reports, “In June, Florida infections rose by 168% or over 95,000 new cases. The percentage of tests coming back positive has skyrocketed to 15% from 4% at the end of May. Florida, with 21 million residents, has reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country had at the height of their outbreaks.”

In a press conference hosted by WHO on Thursday, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti addressed the unique circumstances the continent is facing regarding COVID-19.

There are now more than 413,000 COVID-19 cases on the African continent and sadly more than 10,000 people have died. In the WHO African Region, there are variations in how the epidemic is unfolding. There is community transmission in 30 out of our 47 countries. We also see that in countries like Benin and Malawi case numbers are low but are accelerating. In countries like Ghana and Nigeria cases are steadily increasing. In Sierra Leone and Zambia, for instance, new cases are now decreasing. And we know that South Africa continues to be the worst-affected country accounting for around two-thirds of the new cases in the past few days.

“Preliminary evidence on COVID-19 indicates asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and mild cases play a significant role in transmission. This means that follow-up of passengers for 14 days and strong contact tracing systems are incredibly important to identify imported cases as travel by air is opening-up,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti continued. Despite the concern surrounding the ongoing situation Dr Moeti did deliver some words of encouragement and advice on how to prevent a disastrous situation like what’s currently ongoing in the state of Florida.

Thanks to the public health and social measures that countries have put in place, we have not seen a sharp peak in cases in Africa. Going forward, everyone should prepare for this virus to continue to circulate for the foreseeable future. When restrictions are eased, cases may flare up, so every community must be able to find, test, isolate and care for cases, and trace and isolate contacts.

Also on Thursday, WHO released a press statement regarding African countries resuming air travel and how ‘strong COVID-19 safety measures’ are necessary to do so in a conscientious fashion.

While open borders are vital for the free flow of goods and people, initial analysis by WHO found that lockdowns along with public health measures reduced the spread of COVID-19. Even with border restrictions, imported cases have sometimes brought back COVID-19 to countries which had [sic] not reported cases for a length of time. For example, Seychelles had not had a locally transmitted case since April 6, 2020, but in the last week 66 new cases – all crew members of an international fishing vessel – have been recorded.

“Air travel is vital to the economic health of countries,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti within the press statement. “But as we take to the skies again, we cannot let our guard down. Our new normal still requires stringent measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.”

“It is important that countries have systems in place at points of entry including airports. Comprehensive entry and exit screening should be considered based on risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis, and as part of the overall national response strategy,” the press release continues. “In addition, observance of preventive measures such as personal hygiene, cough etiquette, physical distancing remains crucial. Passengers should be registered and followed up, and if they develop symptoms be advised to inform health authorities.”

The press release ended by suggesting in a worst-case scenario international air traffic capacity in Africa could drop by 69% and a 59% decline in domestic capacity, according to an analysis run by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

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