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Coronavirus - Africa: COVID-19 press conference, 26 March 2020: Opening remarks by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa

Opening remarks by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa:

Response to top question:

It seems as if the number of COVID-19 cases is accelerating in Africa. What does the Region have to do to respond?

Thank you, and good morning to you and good morning also to all our media colleagues who have joined this press conference.

It is true that the situation is evolving very quickly in terms of geographic spread and the increasing number of cases in Africa now.

Just over a month ago, we had one country in the WHO African Region, which is mainly sub-Saharan Africa plus Algeria. Within two weeks of that, we had quite a few more countries, five countries reporting, 50 cases a day. In the last half week or so, we have now up to today, 40 countries already, having the virus and we are reporting around 300 new cases a day. 

It has been a very dramatic evolution. What is it that we are asking countries to do in the Region?

First of all, the most important thing is to still work very hard to contain the spread of the virus. Meaning that governments have to find or identify the cases, people who are infected, isolate these people to limit their transmission to others, treat them if they need treatment, very importantly, trace their contacts, try to find everybody who could have been potentially infected by these people, isolate them too until such a time as it is proved they have not been infected. I think as well, countries need to work on this containment while preparing for a possible, potential broader expansion of the virus. This is what we are recommending very strongly.

We have seen that governments have put in place some measures of protecting their territory against international travel – these are now a fait accompli in many of our countries. We would like to encourage the governments to put a lot of effort into these public health interventions of stopping transmission within countries and in the current context to establish “humanitarian corridors” as we are calling them to enable essential supplies, essential equipment that is needed for the response to be brought into the countries, and also to allow the movement of essential people, some of the experts that are needed not only by WHO but also by some of the other partners who are going to be working with us to mitigate the impact of this virus.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.