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COVID-19: China to give Africa 30 million test kits monthly - Ramaphosa

COVID-19: China to give Africa 30 million test kits monthly - Ramaphosa

Africa

The coronavirus pandemic has been confirmed in over 180 countries globally since it was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019.

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has since declared it a pandemic due to its spread. All African countries have since recorded cases as governments roll out measures to combat the spread.

In this article, we will share the latest developments as authorities implement measures to contain the spread of the virus, especially on the African continent.

Major African stats: May 31 at 7:00 GMT:

  • Confirmed cases = 141,599
  • Number of deaths = 4,070
  • Recoveries = 59,191
  • Active cases = 78,338
SUGGESTED READING: rolling coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Africa I
  • Lesotho confirms index case
  • Comoros records first case
  • US support for Kenya, South Africa; Africa’s equipment crunch
  • Africa case increase worries experts

May 31: China to support Africa with virus logistics

China will give Africa 30 million test kits per month, as well as 10 000 ventilators and 80 million masks, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa disclosed on Sunday during a virtual meeting with top editors in the country.

He did not specify when this initiative will start or how long it would run. Beijing has sent logistic and human resource support to a number of African countries since the pandemic arrived on the continent.

One of the major initial supply of logistics came from businessman Jack Ma, whose foundation teamed up with Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed and the AU to distribute logistics across the continent.

China, weeks on, became the center of mass media reports bordering on racist treatment of Africans in the industrial hub of Guangzhou. African diplomats and the AU asked Beijing to take action on the issue.

Back in South Africa, Ramaphosa who is the chairperson of the African Union also defended the decision to reopen the economy of Africa’s most industrialized nation despite being the most impacted and the having carried out the most tests.

“It’s now time to open up the economy. We can not keep it shut forever,” he is quoted to have said. He confirmed that the country was running out of test kits as recently reported by the health ministry.

He also reiterated that the the main problem with the health system now was that it had far lesser Intensive Care Unit, ICU, beds that it will need at the peak of the pandemic. South Africa will need up to 25,000 ICU beds at peak of pandemic, and it only has 3,500, he disclosed.

“This is the big challenge,” he added. Some hospitals have increased their ICU beds, but health ministry needs to “focus more” on this, he stressed.

May 13: Lesotho confirms index case

Lesotho confirmed its index case of COVID-19 in a press release issued on May 13. The country becomes the last on the continent to record a case.

The statement signed by Director-General of Health Services said in part: “The Ministry of Health informs the Basotho nation and the entire community living in Lesotho, that the country now has the first confirmed case of COVID-19.

“On the 9th May, 2020, the Ministry conducted 81 (eighty one) tests for COVID-19 from travellers from South Africa and Saudi Arabia.”

It said results that came back from South Africa on the 12th May 2020 indicated that “Eighty people tested NEGATIVE for COVID-19 whiles ONE tested POSITIVE for COVID-19.”

Till date, the country have obtained out 597 specimens which have been tested by South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases, NICD; 295 are negative and 301 are still pending results.

First case of coronavirus in the Comoros – President confirms

Comoros announced its index case of the novel coronavirus this Thursday, April 30, 2020. The President of the Republic Azali Assoumani explained that the patient is a 50-year-old Franco-Comorian who has since been admitted to a hospital.

Borders are closed in Comoros while a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. is in effect. During this Ramadan period, the mosques are also closed but there is no full lockdown.

Azali Assoumani explained that contact tracing is being carried out. With this development, it leaves Lesotho as the sole African country without a confirmed case.

April 24: Trump speaks with Ramaphosa and Kenyatta

President of the United States Donald Trump has spoken to two African leaders pledging his country’s support for their respective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump spoke with South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta expressing America’s support to the two countries and pledging additional support.

The South African president is also current chairperson of the African Union, AU; he is leading Africa’s most impacted country and the continent’s effort to get international support to fight the pandemic.

South Africa’s coronavirus statistics as at April 24 at 7:00 GMT were as follows: 3,953 confirmed cases, 1,473 recoveries and 75 deaths. Kenya on the other hand had 320 cases, 89 recoveries and 14 deaths.

Africa dangerously behind in global race for virus gear

As Africa braces for a surge in coronavirus cases, its countries are dangerously behind in the global race for scarce medical equipment. Ten nations have no ventilators at all.

Outbid by richer countries, and not receiving medical gear from top aid donor the United States, African officials scramble for solutions as virus cases climb past 25,000. Even in the best scenario, the United Nations says 74 million test kits and 30,000 ventilators will be needed by the continent’s 1.3 billion people this year. Very few are in hand.

“We are competing with the developed world,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The very future of the continent will depend on how this matter is handled.”

Politicians instinctively try to protect their own people and “we know that sometimes the worst in human behavior comes out,” said Simon Missiri, Africa director with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, urging an equitable approach to help developing nations.

The crisis has jolted African nations into creating a pooled purchasing platform under the African Union to improve negotiating power. Within days of its formation, the AU landed more than 100,000 test kits from a German source. The World Health Organization is pitching in, approaching manufacturers for supplies.

AP

April 23: Africa’s 43% jump in virus cases in 1 week worries experts

Africa registered a 43% jump in reported COVID-19 cases in the last week, highlighting a warning from the World Health Organization that the continent of 1.3 billion could become the next epicenter of the global outbreak.

Africa also has a “very, very limited” and “very, very strained” testing capacity, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in his weekly briefing on Thursday.

The surge in infections on the continent is almost certainly under-reported and even higher in reality, say medical experts.

WHO’s recent report painted a grim picture for Africa, one of the last continents to be hit by the pandemic. WHO warned the virus could kill more than 300,000 people and push 30 million into desperate poverty.

Africa still has time to avert such a disaster, Nkengasong said, but testing people and tracing virus cases is critical.

“It all depends on what we are discussing here, which is, are you testing? Are you finding the cases? Are you isolating and tracking the contacts?” Nkengasong said, adding that the WHO report “is not a prediction that means it must happen.” By Nkengasong’s own criteria, Africa is struggling on the testing front.

In the two months since the continent began mobilizing to fight the outbreak, less than 500,000 tests have been conducted on the population of more than 1 billion. That’s just 325 people tested per 1 million people, Nkengasong said. By comparison, that’s far lower than Italy, one of the world’s worst-hit countries, he said.

“If you don’t test, you don’t find. And if you don’t test, you are blinded. If you don’t test, you are not ahead of the curve,” Nkengasong said.

African governments reported a total of nearly 26,000 cases as of Thursday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from just over 16,000 a week ago. Around 1,200 people have died. Although those figures are still relatively small in the global picture, the sharp increase in cases is a cause for concern, said Nkengasong. The previous week saw an increase of 29%.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control has a target of conducting 1 million more tests in Africa over the next four weeks and 10 million tests in the next four months. The overall effort is badly hampered, Nkengasong said, by a major obstacle: The existing fragility of the health services in many African countries.

“I’d like to make sure I make this very clear,” he said. “It is an uphill battle to build health systems while you need them. … That is what we are actually doing now. We are playing catch-up and that is a very, very tough thing to do.”

It’s not exclusively bad news for Africa. South Africa has the highest number of reported cases with around 3,300 but Africa’s most developed economy is being praised for an aggressive testing program. South Africa, aided by an existing infrastructure, has carried out more than 130,000 tests, according to its health minister.

And “they are starting to see a bending of their curve.” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa. But South Africa’s early and tentative signs of success — helped, maybe, by a strict lockdown — are being set off by “concerning increases” in virus cases in some countries in West Africa and East Africa, Moeti said.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 200 million people and a high population density, is a stark example of the testing and health system shortcomings prevalent across the continent.

The country has reported 873 cases of COVID-19 and 28 deaths but had conducted just 7,153 tests as of Wednesday, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control. Around 5,000 of those tests only came in the last week.

“The truth is, we have to work with what we have. We definitely didn’t start at the baseline where South Africa started,” said Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the Nigerian center.

“Many lessons will be learned here and around the world. But the middle of a crisis is not the time you can suddenly build up an infrastructural base that you need 20 or 30 years to build.”

AP

Other topical headlnes treated below are as follows:

  • Mauritania virus-free
  • Tanzania MP infected
  • Zimbabwe quarantines UK returnees
  • Madagascar announces COVID-19 treatment
  • Africa will suffer Trump’s WHO move
  • Burundi voters locked out
  • Tanzania’s three-days of prayer
  • Malawi imposes lockdown as president’s court hearing starts
  • Uganda speaker unveils COVID-19 combating spray
  • US joins Africa in fight against Chinese racism
  • AU appoints four-member international liaison team
  • Two prominent deaths
  • AU protests Chinese mistreatment of Africans

April 21: Mauritania beats virus, Tanzania MP infected

Authorities in Mauritania say the country does not have any active case of coronavirus as at today after all six patients tested negative out of the seven confirmed cases. The other patient succumbed to the disease.

Mauritania is one of the few African countries that have so far recorded single digit infection along with the likes of Burundi, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan with five, four and four cases respectively as of April 21.

Mauritania said it continued to carry out tests since March 13 when the index case was recorded. The country is currently enforcing a nigh-time curfew as part of containment efforts.

In Tanzania, a lawmaker has tested positive for the virus leading to calls for a suspension of parliamentary sitting. The unnamed MP is believed to have contracted the virus during a trip to the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

“There shall be no two set of laws – for MPs and for the people. All MPs should be isolated, tested and contact-traced. Right from the beginning we advised that the parliament sessions should not be held. It’s dangerous.” said Zitto Kabwe, an opposition MP

The speaker of parliament has backed the president’s position that life must go on despite the need to exercise precautions amid the pandemic. Even though schools have been closed, there is no lockdown or curfew as is the case in most countries in the region.

President Magufuli has also rejected border closures stressing that most neighbouring countries depended on the Tanzania corridor for mush needed supplies. Tanzania’s case count stands at 254 with 11 recoveries and 10 deaths as of April 21.

April 20: Zimbabwe quarantines UK returnees, Madagascar announces COVID-19 treatment

The Zimbabwean government on Monday confirmed that 65 citizens had returned from the United Kingdom and were currently being quarantined.

But there was a protest by the returnees over where government had moved to quarantine them. Nick Mangwana, Secretary for Information bemoaned why the returnees had agreed to return but were refusing a state quarantine facility.

“They are refusing this accommodation demanding hotels. Govt can’t afford. Why come from a covid19 hotspot during a lockdown & demand posh facilities at stretched public cost?” His views have elicited mixed reaction on Twitter.

Madagascar has announced the launch of a traditional remedy for the COVID-19 disease. President Andry Rajoelina said the medication called < CVO or Covid-Organics > was an improved traditional remedy composed of Artemisia & Malagasy medicinal plants.

He said it was produced following scientific studies by IMRA (Malagasy Institute for Applied Research). The currently has 121 cases of COVID-19 with 39 recoveries and no death.

Africa to be hit by Trump WHO fund cut, Tanzania prays

More than 1 million coronavirus tests will be rolled out starting next week in Africa to address the “big gap” in assessing the true number of cases on the continent.

This is according to the head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, while one projection estimates more than 10 million severe cases of the virus in the next six months.

“Maybe 15 million tests” will be required in Africa over the next three months, John Nkengasong said.

The new initiative to dramatically accelerate testing comes as the continent of 1.3 billion people braces for its turn in the pandemic that has rolled from China to Europe and the U.S. and now beyond. Experts have said Africa is weeks behind Europe and the U.S. but the rise in cases has looked alarmingly similar.

The Africa CDC chief expressed concern for the U.S. decision to cut funding for the WHO, saying it “absolutely will affect (African Union) member states’ ability to receive support” from the U.N. agency. The U.S. is the top donor to the WHO, but President Donald Trump has complained about alleged mismanagement, to widespread objections.

The WHO’s regional chief for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said that for the current biennium, or two years, the region has received almost $50 million from the U.S.

Of the U.S. decision, she said the impact will be significant in fighting diseases beyond the coronavirus including malaria and HIV and “we are very much hoping it will be rethought.” Overall, the WHO’s 47-country sub-Saharan Africa region will need about $300 million over the next six months to support what the countries are doing to combat the virus, she said.

Any reduction in support for African nations will be painful as the continent has some of the world’s weakest health systems.

Tanzania prays

President John Magufuli has asked citizens to dedicate the weekend for prayer against the coronavirus outbreak.

Tanzania is one of few Africans countries that has refused to close its borders despite the virus. Also, there is currently no lockdown in the East African country and religious gatherings have not been banned.

“My fellow Tanzanians, due to coronavirus, I am asking that we use three days, from 17th – 19th April, 2020 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), to pray to Almighty God that he deliver us from this pandemic. Let us pray each of us in their own faith, He will hear us,” he posted on Twitter.

Neighbouring Rwanda is in full lockdown as is Uganda whiles Kenya is using a dawn to dusk curfew to control spread.

All academic activities have been suspended. The country also announced the suspension of the Unity Day celebrations earlier this week. It was the second national event to be cancelled after the Uhuru torch race early this month was suspended.

As of April 17, Tanzania’s COVID-19 tallies stood at 94 confirmed cases with four deaths and 11 recoveries.

April 15: Uganda speaker unveils virus killing spray, Malawi lockdown

Ugandan Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has unveiled what she calls her ‘coronavirus treatment’ which local media outlets report that she now calls a spray. The Observer newspaper reported that Kadaga blamed Ugandans for overreacting.

She is quoted as saying: “I didn’t call it a vaccine but a spray, which kills the virus.” The speaker came under fire a month ago for suggesting that some U.S. scientists who had visited her were close to a COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with some Ugandans.

“There is a ray of hope, a professor who manufactured a treatment for coronavirus in the US was here last week and has donated the patent to Uganda. Within a fortnight, the treatment will be right here…there is hope and the treatment will start here in Uganda,” she said in mid-March.

The East African country currently has 55 confirmed case of the disease with eight recoveries and no death as of April 15. The tally is relatively lower in a region where Kenya has 216 cases and Rwanda with 134 cases. Djibouti tops in the East / Horn Africa region with 363 cases toppling Mauritius now second with 324.

Malawi announces 21-day lockdown

Malawians are the latest on the continent to have a feel of a national lockdown after Health Minister Jappie Mhango eclared a 21-day lockdown as part of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The lockdown comes into effect at midnight on 18 April and runs till midnight on 9 May. The southern African country as of April 15 had recorded 19 coronavirus cases including two deaths with no recovery.

As is usually the case, law enforcement officers and essential service providers are the only people allowed to move during the period. All other persons seeking to move must seek permission to do so.

District commissioners and local chief executive officers will identify providers of essential goods and services and issue them with special permits. While all central markets will be closed, local markets will be allowed to open between 05:00 and 18:00 local time, a BBC reporter said.

In an address to the nation on Tuesday evening, President Peter Arthur Mutharika stressed that the lockdown could be extended if need be. He said the borders will have beefed up security during the period and security will be high across the country.

“Fighting coronavirus is a challenging war for everyone, everywhere. It is also a very expensive war. As a nation, we require about MK150 billion for the implementation of the National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan. We need to unite.

“Let me once again appeal to all political leaders that we need to join our hands in fighting this coronavirus pandemic. None must take advantage of the suffering of people and politicize coronavirus. This is not a time for politics. This is a time for saving lives.

“Coronavirus is a real threat. As your President, I will do everything possible for us to save lives. Let us unite to save lives. This lockdown may be extended beyond 9th May as circumstances warrant. The Minister has done so using powers vested in him under the Public Health Act. I would like to urge you to fully comply with the measures because they are for the good of our country,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today started hearing a challenge by Mutharika into annulled presidential elections of May 2019. His reelection bid was successfully challenged by the opposition with a new date set for a rerun in July this year.

April 14: US in Africa’s corner against Chinese racism

The United States has condemned reports of racist attacks on African nationals in the Chinese city of Guangzhou calling the videos and stories “appalling.”

America had over the weekend condemned the actions which it said targeted African Americans as well. In a tweet on Monday; a top Department of State official for Africa, Tibor Nagy, said Beijing needed to do more to stop the attacks.

“Videos and stories from #Guangzhou are appalling. Abuse and xenophobia has no place in our fight against this global pandemic. Chinese authorities must do more to stop these attacks against Africans living and working in China,” he posted on Twitter.

Earlier on Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement admitting diplomatic protests from African governments but stressing that “All foreigners are treated equally. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination.” They reiterated relations between Beijing and Africa and said a probe will be opened to ascertain the real facts and to remedy same.

The statement by the ministry’s spokesperson read in part: “During our fight against the coronavirus, the Chinese government has been attaching great importance to the life and health of foreign nationals in China. All foreigners are treated equally. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination.

“Since the outbreak, the authorities in Guangdong attach high importance to the treatment of foreign patients, including African nationals.

“Specific plans and proper arrangements are made to protect their life and health to the best of our ability, thanks to which we were able to save the lives of some African patients in severe or critical conditions.

The concluding parts read: “The foreign ministry will stay in close communication with the Guangdong authorities and continue responding to the African side’s reasonable concerns and legitimate appeals.

“The virus knows no borders. The pandemic, a challenge to all mankind, can only be defeated through concerted international efforts. With mutual understanding, mutual support and cooperation, we are ready to continue working with African friends to achieve the final victory.”

April 13: Africa round-up from the weekend

Coronavirus developments continue to unravel across the continent as governments continue efforts at arresting spread of the pandemic through national and continental efforts.

The weekend coughed up some major developments across Africa aside the rising number of cases, deaths and recoveries. South Africa remains the most impacted country even though the spike in cases have dropped and a bumper recovery was also recorded.

Across the ocean, mistreatment of Africans in China also gave rise to a raft of protests from different governments with the African Union ultimately inviting the Chinese envoy to Addis Ababa to demand concrete action on the part of Beijing.

In Nigeria, the Foreign Minister and Speaker of the lower house of parliament had cause to summon the Chinese ambassador to register their displeasure. Ghana’s Foreign Minister also did same whiles Congo Republic, Kenya and Sierra Leone issued strongly worded statements.

READ MORE: African nations berate China over COVID-19 related racism

Still with the African Union, Chairperson and South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, appointed on Sunday a four-member team to help coordinate Africa’s international efforts at combating the pandemic.

The newly appointed envoys are tasked with mobilising international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges African countries will face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Special Envoys will be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions, a statement read.

  • Dr Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally respected economist and development expert and served two terms as Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She has also served as Managing Director of the World Bank.
  • Dr Kaberuka is an economist and former President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He is the former Finance Minister of Rwanda and in 2016 was appointed as a Special Envoy of the African Union on sustainable financing for the AU and funding for Peace in Africa.
  • Manuel was the longest-serving Minister of Finance in the Republic of South Africa and formerly headed the country’s National Planning Commission. In 2018 he was appointed as an Investment Envoy by President Ramaphosa to engage domestic and international investors as part of the country’s national investment drive.
  • Thiam is a banker and businessman. He is the former Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse and also served as Chief Financial Officer and CEO of Prudential. He also has a background in management consulting and worked for McKinsey and Company.

Two prominent deaths were also recorded across the continent in relation to COVID-19. Ghana confirmed on Saturday the death of a renowned physician, Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Friday (April 10) in the capital Accra specifically at the University of Ghana Medical Centre, where he had been on a brief admission. An official close to the report said he had underlying health complications before contracting the virus.

In Somalia, the death was confirmed on Sunday of a regional official. The death of Khalif Mumin was the second in the Horn of Africa nation. He died at a hospital in the capital Mogadishu, the Maritini Hospital is Somalia’s only coronavirus treatment center.

READ MORE: Africa’s prominent COVID-19 deaths

April 11: Africa protests Chinese mistreatment with Nigeria in the lead

Reports of mistreatment meted out to Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou has drawn the ire of a number of people on social media. Nigerian government summoned the Chinese ambassador to express their protest.

After the meeting between the Foreign Minister and the ambassador, the Speaker of the lower house of parliament also piled more pressure when he chided the ambassador in a separate meeting on Thursday.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson insisted that relations between the country and Africa remained robust despite the latest round of friction.

“FM Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: ‘China and African countries are united more than ever, demonstrating brotherhood in times of adversity. We treat all foreign nationals equally in China. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination’,” the embassy tweeted.

On Saturday, the African Union Commission Chairperson also tweeted that his office had summoned the Chinese envoy to the AU over the recent reports.

“My Office invited the Chinese Ambassador to the AU, Mr Liu Yuxi, to express our extreme concern at allegations of maltreatment of Africans in Guangzhou plus called for immediate remedial measures in line with our excellent relations. The African group in Beijing is also engaging with the govt,” AUC chair Moussa Faki Mahamat posted on Twitter.

Some major developments to read below

  • Kenya gazettes coronavirus regulations
  • South Africa cases pass 2000
  • Chinese ejecting Africans in Guangzhou
  • African cases could spike
  • France announces aid to Africa
  • S. Africa suspends ‘lockdown lunch’ minister
  • Somalia testing boost, academic calendar suspended
  • Malawi records first death
  • Mothers in isolation deliver in Cameroon, Uganda
  • Ghana records case spike
  • African cases pass 10,000 mark
  • Sao Tome and Principe records index case
  • South Sudan records index case
  • More Jack Ma donations announced
  • Zimbabwe police reverse beer ban, AU leaders meet
  • DRC locks down expats zone, Malawi index cases

April 10: South Africa cases pass 2000

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa have passed the 2000 mark. Figures released on April 10 put the figure at 2003 from 73,028 cases. The death toll has also hit 24 from 18 with 95 recoveries as of April 9.

The country is Africa’s most impacted and the big figures are credited to the rate of testing. Comparatively, most other African countries can only boast of below 10,000 tests as compared to South Africa’s 73,000 plus tests.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension to the 21-day lockdown announced last month. The two-week extension he says will be critical in containment efforts. The president and his cabinet agreed a salary slash to support the government’s solidarity fund.

The government has gazetted hefty penalties for Kenyans, including a fine of Sh20,000 or a six months’ imprisonment or both if found breaking directives issued in line with the Public Health Act, a top portal Standard Digital has reported.

A Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 41 signed by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe indicated that failure to wear a mask while using public or private transport and failure to maintain social distance are among the offences that will attract the penalties.

“Users of public or private transport and public transport operators shall wear a proper mask that must cover the person’s mouth and nose and also maintain a physical distance of not less than one metre.”

According to the new rules, organisations, business entities, traders whether in a market or enclosed premises are required to provide at their business location or entrance to their premises, a handwashing station with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser which is approved for use by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

Kenya report courtesy Standard Digital portal

April 10: South Africa cases hit 2000, Africa needs more testing

African officials objected Thursday to the global jostling to obtain medical equipment to combat the coronavirus, warning that if COVID-19 is left to spread on the continent the world will remain at risk.

“We cannot be neglected in this effort,” the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters. “The world will be terribly unsafe, and it will be completely naive, if countries think they can control COVID-19 in their countries but not in Africa.”

South Africa acknowledged the challenges as it extended its lockdown by two weeks, with President Cyril Ramaphosa saying, “This is a matter of survival, and we dare not fail.”

Equipment in Africa is scarce. The World Health Organization says fewer than 5,000 intensive care unit beds are available across 43 of the continent’s 54 countries: “This is about 5 beds per 1 million people in the reported countries compared to 4,000 beds per 1 million people in Europe.” Functional ventilators in public health services across 41 countries number less than 2,000, a severe shortage for patients in respiratory distress.

While Africa’s 1.3 billion people had a head start in preparing for the pandemic as the virus spread in China, Europe and the United States, Nkengasong warned that “the very future of the continent will depend on how this matter is handled” as cases, now over 11,000, quickly rise.

“The worst is still to come,” he said, and pointed to the global Spanish flu pandemic of a century ago when cases came in waves.

Africa is also competing with the developing world for testing kits that will help give a clear number of cases, as well as protective equipment that front-line health workers desperately require. Already, anxious workers have gone on strike or gone to court in places like Zimbabwe over the lack of gear.

“We may not actually know how big is the size of the problem” without scaling up testing, Nkengasong said.

While 48 of Africa’s 54 countries now have testing capability, that often is limited to countries’ capitals or other major cities, WHO officials told reporters in a separate briefing.

There is an “urgent need” to expand testing, the WHO Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, said, noting that clusters of community transmission have emerged in at least 16 countries. That means the virus has begun spreading beyond the initial cases imported from abroad.

“Some countries might face a huge peak very soon” in cases, said the WHO’s emergency program manager, Michel Yao.

Even if testing kits and other equipment are found, another challenge is delivering them amid the thicket of travel restrictions. Cargo space is rare because many airlines have stopped flights to African destinations, Yao said.

Close to 20 African countries have closed their borders, and several are now under lockdown to try to prevent the virus’ spread. Now millions of people are bracing for lockdown extensions after regional leader South Africa’s announcement Thursday night.

If the country’s lockdown ends too soon or too abruptly, “we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease,” Ramaphosa said.

In the two weeks before the lockdown began two weeks ago, the average daily increase in South Africa’s new cases was around 42%, but since the start of the lockdown the average daily increase has been around 4%, he said.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases in Africa with more than 1,900. “We are only at the beginning of a monumental struggle,” Ramaphosa says. “We cannot relax and we cannot be complacent.”

The economic toll, however, has been harsh. The World Bank in a new report said sub-Saharan Africa is expected to fall into recession for the first time in a quarter-century. Growth should fall this year from 2.4% to minus 2.1%, with countries that depend heavily on oil exports and mining hit especially hard.

Africa has had some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The World Bank said African nations will require a “debt service standstill” and other financial assistance as millions of people, many who survive day-to-day, can’t go out to work.

“I am aware that some of you have been saying, ’We would rather die from COVID-19 than from hunger,” Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu told the nation Thursday. “But I advise you to choose life. Please choose life.”

And, joining a growing number of African nations, he encouraged all Zambians to wear face masks at all times.

In Uganda, 75-year-old President Yoweri Museveni tried to boost morale after outdoor exercise was banned, releasing a homemade video of him running laps barefoot in his office and doing 30 push-ups — proof, he said, that one can stay fit indoors.

April 9: Cases expected to spike in Africa, China bans Africans

Some African countries could experience a spike in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, a top official of the World Health Organization, WHO, Africa region has noted.

According to Michel Yao, the WHO Africa programme manager for emergency response, countries should thus boost their testing and medical response capacities.

“During the last four days we can see that the numbers have already doubled,” he told a media teleconference on Thursday.

“If the trend continues, and also learning from what happened in China and in Europe, some countries may face a huge peak very soon,” he said, he however did not specify which countries could be on the radar.

Compared to continental tallies, Africa’s coronavirus figures as of April 9 are relatively lower even though the WHO has stressed that it could be as a result of undetected or underreported cases. Africa is inching towards the 12,000 confirmed cases mark with 578 deaths and 1,428 recoveries according to the John Hopkins university tracking system (valid as at 16:00 GMT).

The WHO’s Africa head, Matshidiso Moeti, reiterated that there is an “urgent need” to expand testing capacity beyond capital cities in Africa, as the virus spreads through countries.

“Without help and action now, poor countries and vulnerable communities could suffer massive devastation,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva. “The infection numbers in Africa are relatively small now, but they are growing fast,” he said.

Meanwhile over in the Chinese business city of Guangzhou, have been left stranded for a second night after they were ejected by owners of hotels and apartment blocks.

The BBC reporter in Hong Kong, Danny Vincent reported the mass evictions on Tuesday confirming that two days on, the situation had yet to be resolved.

Online rumours that the coronavirus was spreading among the thousands of Africans in the city led to door-to-door testing, evictions and accusations of forced quarantine. “We have no house, no food, no hotel,” one student from Nigeria told the BBC.

“There are up to 100 people still on the streets. People want to go back to our countries. I don’t know what the problem is with China. Everywhere that Africans live they are pushing us away.”

Guangzhou is home to one of China’s largest African communities and has become a hub for African traders buying and selling goods to the continent.

In an open letter penned by the All African Association of Guangzhou, community leaders called on the authorities to end the “the inhuman treatment, hatred, and outright discrimination of Africans that is currently going on in Guangzhou”.

“About 10 African community leaders in Guangzhou are technically under house arrest using the term quarantine. These actions are difficult to comprehend when you consider the fact that these are people whose official test results came back negative just one or two days ago.”

With additional files from BBC Africa LIVE page

April 9: France announced aid to Africa, Seychelles lockdown kicks in

The French government has announced a financial package to support Africa in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, state-run Radio France International, RFI reported late Wednesday.

The announcement was made by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian who disclosed that Paris will grant aid of “nearly 1.2 billion” euros to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Africa.

Meanwhiles, the island nation of Seychelles started a 21-day lockdown from midnight on Wednesday. The move which forms part of COVID-19 containment has shut down non-essential services and restrict the movement.

Government instituted the measure a 26-year-old citizen who works at the airport as a grounds staff tested positive for coronavirus on Monday. The country has 11 confirmed cases with no death with two recoveries so far.

President Danny Faure who made the announcement said the airport will remain closed until the end of April while new maritime surveillance will be applied in the island nation.

The first Seychellois patient who tested positive for Covid-19 on 14 March, and a Dutch woman who tested positive the following day, have both recovered from the disease, the president said.

April 8: SA Minister suspended over lockdown lunch, Somalia testing boost

South African Minister suspended over lockdown lunch

A South African minister has been suspended by the president for breaking lockdown rules after she attended lunch at a former minister’s residence.

A statement from the president read: “President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months – one month of which will be unpaid.

“As to allegations that the Minister violated the lockdown regulations, the law should take its course. This follows the revelation on social media that the Minister had recently visited the home of a friend who hosted a lunch, contrary to the lockdown regulations.

“The President summoned the Minister yesterday, Tuesday 07 April 2020. The President expressed his disapproval of the Minister’s actions, which undermine the requirement that all citizens stay at home and save South Africa from the spread of the coronavirus.”

FULL STATEMENT – President censures Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams for lockdown lunch

In Somalia, the health ministry yesterday (April 7) that the country is now able to test for coronavirus in the capital, Mogadishu. Previously samples were taken to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for testing.

The ministry’s National Public Health Research Laboratory (NPHRL) has now been equipped to carry out the tests. Somalia has eight cases, one of the lowest in the Horn of Africa region. Government also announced that the academic calender has been suspended for the year due to the virus.

In next door Ethiopia, PM Abiy declared a state of emergency after a cabinet meeting today. The declaration is to be tabled before lawmakers for ratification.

Already, the northern Tigray Region had declared a state of emergency at a time they had recorded no cases. The region is also the first to get testing capacity outside of the national facilities in Addis Ababa.

April 7: Malawi records death, Infected mothers deliver in Cameroon, Uganda

Malawi’s coronavirus tally has reached eight with the Ministry of Health confirming the first casualty in the southern African nation.

The patient was a 51-year-old Malawian woman of Indian origin who had recently returned to the country from the UK. The ministry said she had an underlying heath condition.

Of the three new cases announced today, two of the patients are in the city of Blantyre and the other in Chikwawa town. Malawi was one of the African countries that recorded a case very late. So far only Comoros and Lesotho have yet to be infected.

Infected women deliver in Cameroon, Uganda

The BBC reports that a patient undergoing treatment for coronavirus in the Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, gave birth to a baby girl over the weekend, quoting a doctor at the hospital’s isolation ward.

The mother, 19-year-old Marie, gave birth normally but has since been separated from her newborn baby. The patient was connected to an oxygen supply when her contractions started, the report added.

“We just arranged the room and she delivered on her bed while on oxygen,” Dr Yaneu Ngaha Bondja Junie, a gynaecologist at the hospital, told the BBC.

The baby was born prematurely weighing 2.1kg (4.6lb) and is in the neonatal unit. It is not clear if the baby is infected as her tests are still being processed, but she is being fed with breast milk from her mother.

It is the second known birth of a child by a COVID-19 patient. Over the weekend, portals in Uganda confirmed the birth through Caesarean section of a healthy baby.

The Daily Monitor report gave the following details. The 22-year-old Ugandan mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl at Entebbe Grade B Hospital. She was reportedly infected by her husband who returned from Dubai recently.

“The patient gave birth very well this afternoon through a Caesarean Section and the mother and baby are in good health,” Dr Moses Muwonge, the director of the hospital is quoted to have said.

April 6 – 7: Ghana case spike, Sao Tome index case, cases pass 10,000

Cases in Ghana reached 287 as at Tuesday April 7, the health surveillance outfit reported in an update posted on its website. “Following measures for enhanced contact tracing and testing, Ghana has detected an increased number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“As at 6th April 2020, 23:30 hr, a total of 287 cases of COVID-19 with five (5) deaths have been recorded. The regional distribution of the cases are as follows: Greater Accra Region has most cases (258) followed by the Ashanti Region (18), Northern Region (10), Upper West Region (1), Eastern Region (1) and Upper East Region (1),” the update stated.

Ghana is West Africa’s third most impacted country by the development. The country is ranked behind Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast with 364 and 323 cases respectively.

Meanwhile, the continental tally has passed the 10,000 mark with close to 500 deaths and 1,000 deaths. South Africa is the continent’s most impacted with over 1,600 cases. Only two African countries are without cases – Lesotho and Comoros.

Meanwhile Sao Tome on Monday became the 52nd African country to record first cases of COVID-19. The Prime Minister confirmed that four persons had tested positive.

April 6: Sao Tome index case, Rwanda cabinet donates salary

Sao Tome and Principe became the 52nd African country to record cases of the COVID-19. The island nation confirmed its first four cases on Monday, April 6.

Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus disclosed that the confirmation came after test results returned from Gabon. The development leaves Lesotho and Comoros as Africa’s virus free countries as of April 6.

The continent’s confirmed COVID-19 cases is heading towards 10,000, with over 400 deaths. Another 900+ patients have recovered.

READ MORE: Sao Tome becomes 52nd infected African country

Rwandan ministers and top officials have joined the growing trend of public officials donating their salaries to the fight against COVID-19. Cabinet ministers and others have agreed ti donate their April salaries to aid the countries fight against the pandemic

A statement from the prime minister’s office confirmed that other officials who agreed to forgo their salaries are leaders of national institutions and top government officials. The country has 105 confirmed cases with four recoveries. It is East Africa’s third most impacted behind Mauritius and Kenya.

A strictly enforced lockdown remains in place having been extended last week by the cabinet. The government has since last week been distributing food to citizens who had been relying on receiving pay every day.

Lawmakers in Nigeria weeks back agreed to forgo their salaries as contributions towards the COVID-19 fight. Kenya’s president and top government officials also took salary cuts for the same reason.

Over in Malawi, President Peter Mutharika also announced taking a 10% salary cut along with his ministers. “The coronavirus attack has a huge negative impact on the economy and businesses everywhere.

“There are many business people and industry players who are uncertain about the situation as it is unfolding. I know that everyone is worried,” he said.

“Therefore, government will take measures to protect jobs and incomes, protect businesses and ensure continuity of the supply chain and the survival of the economy.”

Amongst other measures, the president directed the Reserve Bank of Malawi to allow banks to offer a three-month moratorium on interest payments on loans to small- and medium-sized businesses.

He also ordered the country’s Competition and Fair Trading Commission to put in place strict monitoring of price controls and punish anyone found increasing prices at the expense of Malawians.

April 5: South Sudan index case

South Sudan has announced its first case of COVID-19, making it the 51st of Africa’s 54 countries to report the disease.

A U.N. worker who arrived in the country from Netherlands on Feb. 28 is ill with the disease, confirmed First Vice President Riek Machar and the U.N. mission in South Sudan. The patient, a 29-year-old woman, first showed signs of the disease on April 2 and is recovering, said officials.

South Sudan, with 11 million people, currently has four ventilators and wants to increase that number, said Machar, who emphasized that people should stay three to six feet apart from others. “The only vaccine is social distancing,” said Machar.

The patient is under quarantine at U.N. premises and health workers are tracing the people who had been in contact with her, said David Shearer, head of the U.N. operations in South Sudan. He said he hoped the measures would contain the case.

To prevent the spread of the virus in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir last week imposed a curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for six weeks and closed borders, airports, schools, churches and mosques.

AP report

Meanwhile, Chinese e-commerce mogul Jack Ma has announced a new round of donation to Africa. Ma and his foundation is partnering with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed on this round too.

“Our second donation to 54 countries in Africa is on the way. That includes 500 ventilators, 200K suits & face shields, 2K thermometers, 1M swabs & extraction kits and 500K gloves,” Ma posted on Twitter on Monday.

Other partners include include Ethiopian Airlines which has been doing the continent-wide deliveries and the African Union’s Africa Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC) which is also headquartered in Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile as of Monday April 6, Africa’s reported cases was nearing the 10,000 mark according to data from Africa CDC and the John Hopkins University.

Major stats as at April 6

Confirmed cases = 9,393
Number of deaths = 445
Recoveries = 906
Infected countries = 51
Virus-free countries = 3 (Sao Tome and Principe, Lesotho, Comoros)

READ MORE: Coronavirus statistics in Africa: Cases, deaths, recoveries

April 4: Zimbabwe beer ban, AU leaders meet

Reports surfaced on Friday that Zimbabwe police had issued a ban on sale of beer under lockdown rules to help contain the coronavirus pandemic. The move attracted lots of social media criticism.

But late Fiday, state-run Heral newspaper reported that police had reversed the earlier statement banning alcohol sales saying supermarkets and registered bottle stores can now continue selling beer on condition it is consumed off the premises.

In a statement, national police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi warned drinkers against gathering outside their homes.

Cameroon’s tally ‘boomed’ on Friday when Health Minister Manaouda Malachie confirmed that 203 new cases had been recorded taking the national tally to 503 as of March 3.

READ MORE: Cameroon records 203 new cases as COVID-19 tally hits 509

Meanwhile, African leaders have been holding virtual meetings to put together a continental response to the pandemic which has seen its statistics – cases, deaths, recoveries – growing in the last two weeks.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame called it a “productive conference call chaired by AU Chair President Cyril Ramaphosa,” according to him, the discussions centered on the need to speak with a common voice and seek Africa’s best interest.

“We discussed the need for Africa to stand together,speak with one voice and work through our institutions to mobilize resources and harmonize the support from international partners. Thank you to initiatives by African institutions such as African Development Bank and Africa Exim Bank for their support

“The meeting stressed the urgency & need to materialize all commitments swiftly and flexibly. Through coordinated action, we can succeed in mitigating the health and economic impact of COVID-19 on our population.

“The loss of and damage to life and economy globally and particularly in Africa is colossal….and so must be the amounts of energy and financial package(s) to bring things back to normal and beyond,” Kagame wrote on Twitter.

Some African leaders who participated included Senegal’s Macky Sall, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi, Mali’s Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, Egypt’s Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and WHO boss, Tedros Ghebereyesus were also part of the meeting. “We were joined later by President Emmanuel Macron, a good partner for Africa,” Kagame added.

The Namibian president on Friday disclosed that he had held talks with his Chinese counterpart as part of efforts to strengthen Africa’s response to COVID-19. “I also expressed gratitude to President XI for China’s support and care of over 500 Namibian students in Wuhan and China during this pandemic,” Hage Geingob added.

Meanwhile South Africa’s Health Minister says the country is formally going to seek assistance from Cuba and China on managing the pandemic. Nigeria also confirms that it is awaiting a medical team from China to support its response to the virus.