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COVID-19 spreading rapidly in Africa: WHO

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Africa faces massive challenges in terms of procurement of supplies, equipment, says regional director

With more than 10,000 cases, the novel coronavirus is fast spreading across Africa, and a lot of work needs to be done, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

“This pandemic is continuing to rapidly evolve in Africa. There are now more than 10,000 confirmed cases across the African continent and over 500 people have died,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, told a joint media briefing with the World Economic Forum.

She said recovery rates in Africa are at 9.4% – slightly lower than that of other regions.

This is because, Moeti said, “there are people in our region with pre-existing health conditions and health systems are weaker.”

She went on to say that a lot of work needs to be done as the continent is “facing massive challenges in terms of procurement of supplies and equipment that is needed.”

“As the epidemic spreads to provinces and districts, the response needs to decentralize – expanding testing capacities beyond capital cities, using the existing polio infrastructure, and engaging community health workers, volunteers and partners,” according to the WHO official.

Moeti said 18 countries in Africa still have fewer than 20 confirmed coronavirus cases, and there is still an opportunity to contain the threat.

Over 11,400 coronavirus cases have so far been reported in 52 of the 54 countries on the continent, with 574 deaths and 1,405 recoveries.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 184 countries and regions, with its epicenter shifting to U.S. and Europe.

The virus has infected nearly 1.5 million people worldwide, while above 89,000 people have died, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. More than 337,000 people have recovered from the disease.

The most common symptoms of the infection are dry cough, fever, and trouble breathing.