More than 35,000 people have died from coronavirus complications in Africa since Egypt became the first country in the continent to confirm a coronavirus case about seven months ago, data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) revealed on Saturday.
The death toll includes the former president of the Republic of the Congo, Jacques Joachim Yhombi-Opango; Somalia’s former prime minister Nur Hassan Hussein; Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari and dozens of health officials.
About 1,437,339 infections have been found in the continent of over a billion people thus far.
The latest update from the continental disease control and prevention agency also showed that the number of people who recovered from their COVID-19 infections is also increasing, as the number of recoveries reached 1,185,054 on Saturday morning.
The World Health Organisation officials said the statistics are likely to significantly underestimate the true number of cases in Africa, raising concerns that African countries were not conducting enough tests.
South Africa currently has the most COVID-19 cases at 668,529. The country which is the 10th most affected nation globally also has the highest COVID-19 related deaths in Africa, with the death toll standing at 16,312.
Nigeria is the fourth most impacted country in the continent after South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia. The West African nation has reported over 58,000 infections with more than a thousand deaths so far.
Chad, Sudan, Liberia, Niger, Egypt, Mali, Angola, Burkina Faso and Tanzania are among African countries seeing a daily increase in the number of fatalities, according to the African CDC.
At least, about 23 African countries are currently implementing entry and exit restrictions, requiring COVID-19 testing and test certificates at their airports.
Deterrence in welcoming foreign visitors proved helpful in pushing back COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
But local transmission – confirmed cases with no foreign travel history – is raising concerns.
“It is crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission”, said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa in March. “Such a scenario will present a major challenge to countries with weak health systems.”
More than half of the countries in the African region are now experiencing local transmission.
Slums and informal settlements which are part of the physical infrastructure of many African cities are mostly overcrowded and lack basic hygiene services even before the threat of a global health crisis emerged.
The virus can easily spread through overcrowded cities, remote villages and among vulnerable populations such as refugees, the malnourished or those suffering from HIV and other chronic conditions.
In Nigeria for instance, majority (over 70 per cent) of those who contracted COVID-19 so far did not have relevant travel history or exposure to another individual with the virus, meaning that the origin of their infection is unknown.