AFRICA V CORONAVIRUS: A CHALLENGE FOR THE CONTINENT

• The WHO said while local transmission - that is people with no travel history - remains low, containment is the most appropriate strategy.

• That means detecting cases quickly, isolating them to minimise transmission, treating them and tracing their contacts.

• John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Prevention and Control, says no data is available to support that theory.

• One thing that put Africa a step ahead of the rest of the world was its early screening at airports and other ports of entry.



The coronavirus outbreak is no longer a threat for Africa, it is now a reality as more and more countries on the continent have cases.


East Africa is the last region to confirm infections: Sudan confirmed that a 50-year-old man has died, while Ethiopia says a Japanese man who recently travelled to the country tested positive to Covid-19.


News on Friday that a Kenyan woman, who travelled from the US via London, had the virus sparked panic buying in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.


Pictures and videos shared on social media showed shoppers filling up baskets with hand sanitiser, soap and food.


Liquid soap is selling fast in Nairobi


The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the window of opportunity to prepare is closing and that critical gaps remain.


"Every country can still change the course of this pandemic by scaling up their emergency preparedness or response," said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa.


The inter-governmental organisation says it has now shifted from "readiness" to "response" mode on the continent.


Experts baffled


Most of the confirmed cases involve people arriving from Europe and North America.


The WHO said while local transmission - that is people with no travel history - remains low, containment is the most appropriate strategy.


That means detecting cases quickly, isolating them to minimise transmission, treating them and tracing their contacts.


Yet the relatively low numbers in Africa have baffled experts.


Some suggest the tropical climate is less favourable to the new virus.


John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Prevention and Control, says no data is available to support that theory.


"But we know that Covid-19 is part of the coronavirus family to which the common cold belongs," he told the BBC.


These better-known coronaviruses are less prevalent where temperatures are higher.


But Dr Nkengasong hastens to point out that there are significant outbreaks of Covid-19 in countries in the tropics, like Thailand.


If the virus follows the pattern of other viruses, with seasonal peaks in winter, this will be a source of concern for southern Africa, which is heading into its colder months and "flu season", Dr Moeti told the BBC.


One thing that put Africa a step ahead of the rest of the world was its early screening at airports and other ports of entry.


This is because infrastructure was already in place and health workers at hand because of the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which now appears to be coming to an end.


DR Congo's first confirmed case of coronavirus was detected this way