Ninety-eight days. That is how long it took for confirmed coronavirus infections to reach the 100,000 mark in Africa. But when it came to those cases doubling up to 200,000, it took just 18 days.
The figures were cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday as it warned that the coronavirus pandemic on the continent is “accelerating”, with the virus spreading to rural areas after international travellers brought it to major cities.
“Even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3 percent of the global total, it’s clear that the pandemic is accelerating,” WHO Africa head Matshidiso Moeti told a media briefing.
Moeti said community transmission had begun in more than half of Africa’s 54 countries, calling that “a serious sign”.
More than 5,500 coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed so far across the continent.
As the virus, which first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December of last year, swept across the globe, many experts had warned of a possible dire effect on countries in Africa, which contains many of the world’s poorest countries, weak healthcare infrastructure, and millions of people displaced by conflict.
However, that prediction has yet to bear out, with other parts of the world emerging as the epicentres of the pandemic. The WHO said there was currently no indication that large numbers of severe cases and deaths were being missed in Africa’s overall tally, nor has the virus caused significant infections in refugee camps.
Some have attributed the more muted outbreak to the continent’s relatively young population and the fact that many countries moved quickly to establish “point of entry” screening measures in the wake of the Ebola epidemic in West and Central Africa.
Moeti said lower numbers of international travellers arriving to spread the virus, quick reactions by African leaders, and the weather could also have played a role in lessening the blow.