The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in Africa, spreading to the hinterland from capital cities where it arrived with travelers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, announcing South Africa, Algeria and Cameroon as the current COVID-19 hot spots in the continent.
Ten countries are driving Africa's pandemic, accounting for 75% of the some 207,600 cases on the continent, with 5,000 deaths reported, according to Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Africa regional director. South Africa, which last month began a phased easing of the lockdown, is the hardest-hit, accounting for a quarter of all cases, she said.
"Even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3% of the global total, it's clear that the pandemic is accelerating," Moeti told a news briefing for Geneva-based U.N. correspondents. "We believe that large numbers of severe cases and deaths are not being missed in Africa."
Africa's population is relatively youthful, and many countries had already established "point-of-entry" screening measures against Ebola fever, two factors which may have so far limited the spread of COVID-19, she said. But lockdowns and market closures intended to contain coronavirus contagion have taken a heavy toll on marginalized communities and low-income families, Moeti said.
Elsewhere, Latin America's coronavirus crisis reached a grim new milestone on Wednesday with total deaths exceeding 70,000 as Mexico hit a daily record for confirmed infections. Brazil, with the largest economy in the region, remains Latin America's most affected country as total fatalities are just shy of 40,000, the world's third-highest death toll after the United States and Britain. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned that June will be a crucial month for the coronavirus pandemic in the region.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 416,343 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December. At least 7,383,140 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories, as of Thursday. Of these, at least 3,279,900 are now considered recovered. The U.S. is the worst-hit country with 112,924 deaths from 2,000,464 cases.