Africa ‘least affected globally’ – latest COVID-19 news from the World Health Organization – World Economic Forum

  • World Health Organization held a media briefing on Africa Day, 25 May, to update the public on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
  • Lower number of cases in sub-Saharian Africa attributed to Ebola experience and speedy response by African Union.
  • Recent Lancet study finds hydroxycholoroquine causes ‘higher mortality rate’ among COVID-19 patients.

“Today is a special day,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as he opened a World Health Organization press conference to mark Africa Day, 57 years after the formation of the African Union.

While noting that “there is a likelihood that some cases may be missed”, the WHO Director-General commended the continent for having only 1.5% of the world’s reported cases of COVID-19 and less than 0.1% of deaths. He added: “Africa is the least-affected region globally in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported to WHO.”

Want more Africa news? Watch the WHO regional director for Africa, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources of Rwanda discuss the coronavirus crisis:

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So what’s behind Africa’s COVID-19 success?

Countries across the continent have “garnered a great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases like polio, measles, Ebola, yellow fever, influenza and many more”, offered Tedros. But credit, too, goes to the rapid response by the African Union, headed up by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa:

Open science is also a factor, with laboratories in Senegal and South Africa among the first to implement diagnostic testing, as they collaborated with @AfricaCDC and the WHO to extend training for laboratory technicians in detecting the virus and building up national capacity.

Hype around hydroxycholoroquine

On 22 May, The Lancet published an observational study on the controversial drugs hydroxycholoroquine and chloraquine, namely on their effects on hospital patients suffering from the novel coronavirus. The verdict was not encouraging, with authors estimating a “higher mortality rate” among patients receiving the drug.

In the meantime, a group of participants in the WHO’s Solidarity Trial, which aims to find a treatment for COVID-19, met on Saturday and has agreed to review all available evidence. But until they can evaluate the drug’s potential harms and benefits, the group has announced a “temporary pause” of the hydroxychloroquine section of the trial while the data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.

Dr Tedros was quick to qualify the findings: “I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.”

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