JOHANNESBURG : Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 1 million, a Reuters tally showed on Thursday, as the disease began to spread rapidly through a continent whose relative isolation has so far spared it the worst of the pandemic.
The continent recorded 1,003,056 cases, of which 21,983 have died and 676,395 recovered. South Africa – which is the world’s fifth worst-hit nation and makes up more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s case load – has recorded 538,184 cases since its first case on March 5, the health ministry said on Thursday. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2WZPuOh)
Low levels of testing in many countries mean Africa’s infection rates are likely to be higher than reported, experts said.
In South Africa, a study showed some 17,000 deaths above the normal rate, or a 60% excess, between early May and mid-July, suggesting more people are dying of COVID-19 than official figures reflect. South African mortuaries that are running out of space and coffins have resorted to storing bodies in refrigerated shipping containers.
Already creaking public health services are overwhelmed and there are shortages of beds, protective gear and nurses. COVID-19 patients have sometimes had to be treated alongside others.
A nurse at a hospital in South Africa’s biggest township of Soweto, who declined to be named because she was not authorised to speak to the media, said patients were sometimes left lying next to a corpse for hours because there weren’t enough staff to remove it. More than a third of staff caught the virus on duty.