The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has praised African states for managing to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Africa has seen about 1.4 million cases and 34,000 deaths since February.
These figures are far lower than those in Europe, Asia or the Americas, with reported cases continuing to decline.
Early interventions played a crucial role in curbing the virus’ spread, Africa CDC head John Nkengasong told the BBC’s Newsday programme.
Africa CDC is the health agency of the 55-member African Union (AU).
The continent of more than one billion people accounts for just under 5% of cases globally and 3.6% of deaths.
Dr Nkengasong described as “false” suggestions that cases and deaths in Africa were significantly under-reported.
“We may not have been picking up all the cases, just like in other parts of the world… but we are not seeing people around the continent falling dead on the streets or mass burials going on,” Dr Nkengasong said.
Chart showing cases compared by continent.
African states introduced a series of measures to tackle the virus as soon as the first cases were reported. Many, including South Africa, introduced nationwide lockdowns, but others such as Ethiopia opted for less strict measures.
Dr Nkengasong, however, attributed the low number to a “joint continental effort”, which focused on “scaling up testing and following up contact tracing and very importantly masking”, or the wearing of face masks.
“In many countries, including Ethiopia where I live, if you go to the streets of Addis Ababa you will see there is almost 100% masking,” he added.
What other reasons did he give?
Africa’s relatively young population also contributed to the low number of cases, Dr Nkengasong said.
Furthermore, the emphasis on community-driven initiatives, and experience in contact-tracing from fighting diseases like Ebola, had helped countries to tackle the virus, he said.
“This virus is in the community, and without a strong community response and strong community engagement there is no chance we can fight it,” Dr Nkengasong added.
Warning over possible second wave
Analysis by Anne Soy, BBC News, Nairobi
The drop in the number of Covid-19 cases on the continent is mainly driven by South Africa, which accounts for nearly half of Africa’s cases but also a big proportion of tests.
As of Tuesday, South Africa had conducted more than four million tests. In comparison, the entire continent of more than 50 countries crossed the 10 million tests mark a month ago.
Very few hospitals in South Africa were overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients
By international standards, this is a relatively low number, and it is blamed on global shortages of testing equipment and a lack of manufacturing in Africa. It continues to undermine the Africa “success” story.
While there may be cases that have gone undetected, experts such as Dr Nkengasong say there is no indication of a large number of unexplained deaths in most countries.
But there are warnings there could be second wave of infections as more and more countries relax restrictions.
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