Africa’s five-month COVID-19 death toll higher than worst Ebola outbreak: W.H.O.

A member of South Sudanese Ministry of Health's Rapid Response Team take a sample from a man who has recently been in contact with a confirmed case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Juba, South Sudan on April 13, 2020. - Four cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been confirmed among United Nations (UN) national and international staff in South Sudan. (Photo by Alex McBride / AFP) (Photo by ALEX MCBRIDE/AFP via Getty Images)
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti speaks during a news briefing in Nairobi, Kenya March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa in the five months since its onset has surpassed that of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

According to figures from the World Health Organisation, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed 11,959 people compared to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and which killed 11,308.

The W.H.O. also expressed that several countries were experiencing a sharp rise in cases as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa surpassed 500,000.

The death toll is likely to be much higher with the pandemic yet to peak in continent. Late on Tuesday, South Africa, the worst-affected country in the continent with more than 200,000 cases, reported a record 192 single-day deaths related to COVID-19. However, Egypt, which has fewer confirmed cases has a slightly higher death toll.

Cumulatively, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa account for about 71 percent of the continent’s cases.

The W.H.O. said that 88 percent of COVID-19 infections were among people aged 60 and below, likely due to Africa’s relatively young population.

However, the likelihood of dying from COVID-19 rose with increasing age and the existence of co-morbidities, with the risk of death among patients aged 60 years and above being 10 times higher compared with those below 60.

Meanwhile, the W.H.O. said that COVID-19 cases had more than doubled in 22 countries in the continent over the past month while close to two-thirds of countries were experiencing community transmission.

“With more than a third of countries in Africa doubling their cases over the past month, the threat of COVID-19 overwhelming fragile health systems on the continent is escalating,” W.H.O. Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said.

The W.H.O. pointed out that the accelerating growth trend was not uniform across the continent, with some countries recording a steady rise in cases, indicating a prolonged pandemic.

“So far the continent has avoided disaster and if countries continue to strengthen key public health measures such as testing, tracing contacts and isolating cases, we can slow down the spread of the virus to a manageable level,” Moeti added.

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