As of Thursday, July 9, there are 541,381 cases of COVID-19 in Africa with the highest records from the Southern part of the continent.
South Africa, the hotspot of the pandemic, has recorded 238,339 cases with 3,720 deaths. The country says it is digging 1.5 million graves in Gauteng Province to “prepare for the worst”.
“Our pandemic is getting full speed,” said John Nkengasong, Chief of Africa Centre for Disease Control.
“There’s absolutely no harm to think ahead,” Nkengasong said when asked about digging the graves which shocked reporters.
Less than six million tests for the virus have been conducted in the continent of more than 1.3 billion people. These low testing levels make the real number of cases unknown. Many countries test elites and those with “connections” or are in critical conditions.
In Nigeria, where the COVID-19 cases are increasing at an alarming rate, the Federal Government has continued to enforce measures to curb the spread of the virus, although state governments are easing restrictions.
The country recently announced the cancellation of senior secondary school exams and urged state governments that announced reopening schools to reconsider the decision.
“Schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not reopen…any time soon,” said the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
“We will not open schools for examination or any reason until it is safe for our students,” he added.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is the third most impacted with coronavirus behind South Africa and Egypt. It has over 30,000 confirmed cases but is among those with lowest testing capacity in relation to the population.
Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the country should prepare for the worst as COVID-19 deaths are likely to increase.
He explained that the increase in positive cases is directly proportional to the increase in deaths, especially in a country with poor healthcare system.
“We have said that an increasing number of cases should be a warning that fatalities will increase too,” Ehanire said on June 18.
Misinformation and Disbelief
Countries around Africa are calling citizens to wear face masks and observe social distancing outside their homes. Nigeria introduce“Wear A Mask” as an obligatory duty.
However, misinformation purveyors, including a powerful religious cleric in the country, discourage wearing the mask by describing it as a political manipulation tool without scientific proof that it can stop COVID-19.
Another message circulating on WhatsApp says the mask is bringing another virus, not protecting users from the pandemic. The message has been circulating in different languages.
The low class in society think it is planned by governments at different levels to siphon money from the treasury in the name of fighting COVID-19.
Videos circulating on social media show young men washing their hands and drinking from the water to prove the virus does not exist in Nigeria.
Vaccine and the War Ahead
While countries in the world are racing to make a vaccine against the virus a reality, the 1.3 billion African rely on two countries to take vaccine trials; South Africa and Egypt.
This is coming amidst lots of misinformation and rumours claiming vaccination, even though yet to be found, is a plan to depopulate Africa.
“They will come to your houses for the so-called coronavirus vaccine. You shouldn’t give your children. They want to depopulate Africa,” a woman said on WhatsApp.
The Chief of Africa CDC, John Nkengasong, believes a vaccine “is the only weapon to allow our lives to return to normal.” He added that a delay in testing the vaccine in Africa would be catastrophic.
The African Union has called on the world to “remove obstacles” so as to ensure equitable distribution of any successful coronavirus vaccine.
Another critical issue facing the continent is the resistance of people to the vaccine that is yet to be found. Other critics say testing should not start from Africa. They responded harshly to western doctors who called for testing the vaccine in the continent.
The real war ahead of Africa is getting the vaccine in the region with only two countries participating in the vaccine trials, and ensuring that misinformation surrounding the vaccine is countered before releasing it to any part of the continent.