(Reuters) – Africa has so far been spared the worst impact of the coronavirus, but the World Health Organization is worried the continent could face a “silent epidemic” if its leaders do not prioritize testing for it, a WHO envoy said on Monday.
“My first point for Africa, my first concern, is that a lack of testing is leading to a silent epidemic in Africa. So we must continue to push leaders to prioritize testing,” special envoy Samba Sow told a news conference.
The WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Africa was the region with the fewest diagnosed coronavirus cases, accounting for less than 1.5% of the global total and just 0.1% of deaths.
The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said some countries had taken measures to curb the disease at a high economic cost. Those measures meant the pandemic was having a milder impact so far than some models had predicted, Moeti said.
Tedros credited the continent’s experience dealing with other epidemics as helping it scale up its response to the coronavirus and be spared the impact seen elsewhere so far.
All African countries had preparedness plans in place, he said, although there were still “gaps and vulnerabilities”.
Writing by Peter Graff; editing by John Stonestreet