Europe is currently the epicentre of the pandemic, with well over 60,000 confirmed cases, and health workers ready for the crisis to worsen in the coming months. However, while numbers in Africa have been relatively low, infections are starting to creep up. Cases have now been identified in 25 countries, according to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, including 62 in South Africa, and 27 in Senegal, with local transmission reported in each instance.
Virologist Christian Drosten, a worldwide authority on infectious diseases who has urged action to combat the risk of a global pandemic such as the one the world now faces, painted a grim picture during an interview with German magazine Stern.
He said: “The peak of infections will also occur in African countries this summer.
“I do not like to imagine which pictures you will see.
“We will see people die from it on the streets in Africa.
“The situation will be bad, very bad.”
Mr Drosten’s concerns echoed those of Dr Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who told Express.co.uk last month: “There are definitely concerns about the ability to cope with this virus in resource-limited areas such as in Africa.
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“As such, regional training exercises are important endeavour.
“Creating diagnostic capacity there is also essential.”
Research undertaken last year by the Economist Intelligence United (EUI) as part of a joint project launched by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (CHS) suggested most countries in Africa were inadequately prepared for the ravages a global pandemic would inflict.
At the time, NTI co-chairman and CEO Ernest J Moniz said: “The results are alarming: all countries – at all income levels – have major gaps in their capabilities, and they aren’t sufficiently investing in biological preparedness.
“The bottom line is that global biological risks are growing – in many cases faster than health systems, security, science, and governments can keep up.
“We need to ensure that all countries are prepared to respond to these risks.”
Unveiling the stringent new measures, South African’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said residents would be restricted to their homes except to collect food, seek medical care and collect social grants.
In addition the Democratic Republic of Congo, already the location of an ongoing Ebola outbreak, has imposed a two-day lockdown in part of its copper and cobalt heartland, while a union official said a Glencore mine in a neighbouring province had repatriated some foreign workers.
The governor of Haut-Katanga province, Jacques Kyabula, issued the lockdown order late on Sunday and said the boundaries of the province would also be closed after two people tested positive for the virus in the provincial capital, Lubumbashi.
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)