South Africa has reported 364,328 coronavirus cases as of Monday. Officials from the World Health Organization are concerned that the country’s rising numbers could signal greater Covid-19 spread throughout Africa.
“While South Africa is experiencing a very, very severe event, I think it is really a marker of what the continent could face, if urgent action is not taken to provide further support,” Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said Monday during a media briefing in Geneva.
South Africa has the fifth most confirmed Covid-19 infections in the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Ryan said South Africa is experiencing an acceleration in Covid-19 cases, which have increased by about 30% in the last week.
“Sometimes, this disease can take off very quickly,” Ryan said. “And sometimes, in other situations, it takes off more slowly, and then accelerates – and it's difficult to understand fully why that is the case.”
Ryan noted other countries in the region have seen Covid-19 increases, though their total case counts are still lower than South Africa’s. In the past week, cases in countries such as Madagascar, Namibia and Botswana have increased by 50%, 69% and 66%, respectively, according to Ryan.
“I'm very concerned right now that we're beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa,” Ryan said. “And we all need to take that very seriously and show solidarity and support to those countries who may now be experiencing increasing numbers of cases and deaths.”