Some African countries could hit coronavirus peak in weeks: WHO

UN health body urges African countries to urgently increase testing and warns the virus' peak is near.

    Some African countries could hit coronavirus peak in weeks: WHO
    Although Africa accounts for a fraction of global cases of the disease, its countries are feeling the economic impact [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

    Some African countries could see a peak in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, and testing should be urgently increased in the region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

    "During the last four days, we can see that the numbers have already doubled," Michel Yao, the WHO Africa programme manager for emergency response, told a media teleconference on Thursday.

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    "If the trend continues, and also learning from what happened in China and in Europe, some countries may face a huge peak very soon," he said, adding it could arrive in the coming weeks but without naming countries.

    The number of cases recorded of the novel coronavirus in Africa have been relatively low so far - with nearly 11,000 cases and 562 deaths.

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    The WHO's Africa head, Matshidiso Moeti, said there is an "urgent need" to expand testing capacity beyond capital cities in Africa as the virus spreads through countries.

    "Without help and action now, poor countries and vulnerable communities could suffer enormous devastation," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva.

    "The infection numbers in Africa are relatively small now, but they are growing fast," he said.

    He noted the havoc wrought even in wealthy nations in the 100 days since China first informed the WHO of cases of a "pneumonia of unknown cause" in the city of Wuhan.

    Although Africa accounts for a fraction of global cases of the disease, its countries are feeling the economic impact. In a report published on Thursday, the World Bank said the outbreak is expected to push sub-Saharan Africa into recession in 2020 for the first time in 25 years.

    The bank's Africa's Pulse report said the region's economy will contract 2.1 percent to 5.1 percent from growth of 2.4 percent last year, and coronavirus will cost sub-Saharan Africa $37bn to $79bn in output losses this year because of trade and value chain disruption, among other factors.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency