Cases of COVID-19 are rising rapidly and spreading geographically across the WHO African Region, with 45 (96%) of the 47 countries in the Region now reporting cases. South Sudan and Sao Tome and Principe are the latest to confirm cases, leaving only Comoros and Lesotho. The cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the WHO African Region has surpassed 6000 and mortality figures are steadily growing, standing at 242. Eight countries (Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa) have recorded an exponential increase in confirmed cases in the past week. Most countries in the region are now experiencing local transmission in addition to the initial sporadic importation of cases.
However, with local transmission still relatively limited, it is still possible to change the trajectory and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the continent through continuing to take all necessary and proven public health measures, especially finding cases, providing care, contact tracing and isolation. In addition, all countries need to widely inform their populations to practice physical distancing, hand washing and cough etiquette.
The ongoing, large and complex measles outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo is of particular concern in the face of rising case incidence and mortality since week 7 of 2020. The outbreak has affected every province in the country, with seven provinces particular badly affected, one of which is South Kivu, which is only just starting to recover from the Ebola virus disease outbreak. Challenges continue around the rapid organization of the immunization response, lack of free care for measles cases and inadequacy in managing complicated cases. In addition, some vital response measures may be disrupted by the lockdown measures across the country and particularly in Kinshasa Province. As focus shifts towards COVID-19 response measures, this serious and long-lasting outbreak must not be neglected.