HIGHER NUMBERS

Are Kenya's Covid cases being underreported? WHO thinks so

WHO's Michael Ryan says continent heading South Africa's way

In Summary

• The disease has killed more than 5,000 people in South Africa and infected more than 350,000, Africa's hardest highest.

• South Africa cases rose by 30 percent in the past week,  while the numbers in Kenya increased by 31 percent.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on May 6, 2020.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on May 6, 2020.
Image: MERCY MUMO

The World Health Organisation says it suspects cases of Covid-19 in Africa are being under reported and they exceed the official figures being announced by governments. 

In Kenya, the official cases reached 19,913 on Friday, after more than 295,280 tests conducted since March. 

The WHO said in a statement the tests in Kenya and other countries were low, and need to increase. 

 
 

"Under-reporting of cases is a challenge as testing for Covid-19 in Africa remains low by global benchmarks, but capacity has expanded significantly," WHO said.

"The number of tests performed per 10,000 population as of mid-July was below 100 in 43 countries out of the 54 assessed. This must improve."

The virus has spilled out of major cities and spread into distant hinterlands. Countries need to keep apace and urgently decentralise their key response services. We can still stop Covid-19 from reaching full momentum, but the time to act is now.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa

Last week, WHO's emergencies chief Michael Ryan told a virtual news conference that South Africa's surging numbers could be a "precursor" for outbreaks across the continent.

"I am very concerned right now that we are beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa," he said.

The disease has killed more than 5,000 people in South Africa and infected more than 350,000, Africa's hardest highest.

South Africa cases rose by 30 percent in the past week,  while the numbers in Kenya increased by 31 percent.

"South Africa may, unfortunately, be a precursor, it may be a warning for what will happen in the rest of Africa," Ryan said. 

 
 

On Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe predicted Kenya's cases will reduce when the cold July season ends.

Until recently, Africa remained relatively unscathed by the pandemic compared with rising numbers in other parts of the world.

All the seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa which had imposed lockdowns and have recently started easing them have experienced a 20 per cent jump in cases over the past two weeks.

Some countries such as the Republic of the Congo and Morocco have had to re-implement partial restrictions because of an increase in cases.

“As Africa approaches one million cases, the continent is at a pivotal point,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

She said 41 African countries have reported nearly 14,000 health worker infections.

In 16 countries which reported health worker infections over the past month, nearly a quarter recorded an increase in the past two weeks compared with the preceding fortnight. 

In Kenya, 634 healthcare workers have contracted Covid-19, according to CS Kagwe.

Many of them were infected outside of work. 

"We are also asking that the health professionals must adhere to what we are saying because we know that there are some who are misbehaving," Kagwe said.