Sub-Saharan Africa reported its first COVID-19 death, a high-ranking Burkina Faso official, as World Health Organization chief urged the continent to “prepare for the worst.”
Africa should wake up,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday, pointing out that “in other countries, we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point”.
Africa has lagged behind the global coronavirus infection and death curve but has seen a large rise in cases in the past few days. Due to its fragile health system, violence, wars, poor sanitation, and urban crowding, experts have repeatedly cautioned about the continent’s dangers. Medical authorities in Burkina Faso’s poor Sahel state reported on Wednesday that the number of infections there has risen from seven to 27 — and that one of them, a 62-year-old diabetic woman, is dying overnight. The country’s largest opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), said in a statement that the victim was parliament’s first vice-president, its lawmaker Rose-Marie Compaore.
South Africa, the most developed economy on the continent, reported a more than one-third jump in cases, taking its count to 116 with 31 new infections.
Nearby Zambia announced its first two confirmed cases — a couple who have returned from a 10-day vacation in France to the capital Lusaka. As from Wednesday, for all of Africa, a list of confirmed cases collected by AFP stood at over 600. For these, 16 cases were fatal: 6 in Egypt, 6 in Algeria, 2 in Morocco, 1 in Sudan and 1 in Burkina Faso.
Compared to the rest of the world, those numbers are comparatively low — the global death rate of nearly 210,000 cumulative infections has reached 8,800.
WHO chief Tedros said sub-Saharan Africa had reported 233 infections, but the official figures were warned that they possibly did not represent the full picture.
“Perhaps we have undetected cases or cases which were not published,” he said.