COVID-19 ‘hot spots’ popping up across Africa. They might smolder for years to come

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A boy walks in front of a graffiti promoting the fight against Covid-19 in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 22. Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters
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Across Africa, government numbers show coronavirus infections have been significantly lower than in other parts of the world. But from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Yaoundé in Cameroon and cities in Somalia and across northern Nigeria, health workers are reporting a reality that bears little resemblance to the official data, with hot spots emerging in countries with few resources to tackle them.

Coronavirus cases in the region exceeded 100,000, with more than 3,105 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a public-health agency of the African Union.

Only around one million coronavirus tests have been carried out across Africa, according to the Africa CDC, and just two countries—Ghana and South Africa—account for nearly half of the tests.

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Many African nations imposed strict lockdowns after cases of the virus surged in Europe and the U.S. Several of the region’s governments including South Africa, Senegal and Ghana have been praised by the WHO for the speed and efficacy of their responses.

But even in South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, coronavirus cases have exploded in Cape Town and its surrounding wine lands. Modeling suggests hospitals could become overwhelmed within weeks.

“Covid-19 will likely smolder in transmission hot spots,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa. “It could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years.”

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