Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID-19 in Africa - the latest

World Health Organization officials in Africa have said the Covid-19 outbreak is still increasing across the continent despite widespread efforts at containment. Unlike developed countries that can rely on relatively well-resourced health systems to treat large numbers of sick people, most African nations are hoping they can slow the spread of the disease to protect very limited facilities. 

African nations have now reported more than 37,400 cases, including 1,598 deaths, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Only the small southern African kingdom of Lesotho has not reported a single case of the disease.

In South Africa, which has the continent’s highest number of reported cases at 5,350, community health workers continued testing in Johannesburg.  South Africa reported another 297 positive cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total in the country to 5,647, the health department said. “The total number of tests conducted to date is 207,530, of which 10,403 were done in the last 24 hours,” the Ministry of Health said. Deaths remained at 103. Wednesday’s increase of 354 in infections was the highest in a 24-hour cycle. South Africa’s five-week strict national lockdown ends on Friday, but with only a clutch of industries being allowed to operate in a bid to keep the economy going while keeping the spread of the virus at bay.

A rise in cases of Covid-19 across northern Nigeria has seen several states controversially deport hundreds of “almajiris” - mostly children, studying in Islamic boarding schools - back to their states of origin. The states, most in Nigeria’s majority Muslim north, say the deportations are to halt the spread of Covid-19. Yet the deportations of mostly vulnerable children appear to be spreading it across states where the capacity to trace and test for Covid-19 is extremely limited. This afternoon, the Kaduna state government, in north-west Nigeria, said 16 new cases of Covid-19 were of almajiris, recently deported from neighbouring Kano state, where hundreds of unexplained deaths have occured in the last week.  

Doctors in Kano told the Guardian there has been a rise in pneumonia cases in recent weeks, heightening fears of a Covid-19 outbreak. The mass deportations of vulnerable children, who may have Covid-19 has caused alarm in Nigeria. Almajiris, enrolled in conservative Islamic schools, are often sent away from their homes without school fees, with many resorting to begging on the streets. As extreme poverty has grown, the system has become increasingly exploited. 

 In the last 6 months, several almajiri schools have been shut after it emerged thousands were being enslaved, tortured and sexually abused. Authorities have been accused of ill treatment, with reports of almajiris being left in other states without protection.  State-to-state deportations are contentious yet do occur in Nigeria, where state rights are sensitive.  The increasing deportations of these children, some of whom appear to have Covid-19, moving between poor states with limited health services is worrying. Their health infrastructure to test or trace for the spread of Covid-19 is severely limited. Nigeria overall is struggling to boost testing, with just 13,000 tests administered.  The number of confirmed infections across the country is relatively low - 1.728 - but the daily rise in new cases has been gradually accelerating.

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