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Africa’s COVID-19 cases now over 1 million

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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 caseload – has recorded 538,184 cases since its first case on March 5, the health ministry said on Thursday.

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Low levels of testing in several countries, apart from South Africa, mean Africa’s infection rates are likely to be higher than reported, experts say.

In South Africa, a study last month 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.

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Many African countries imposed quick lockdowns and shut their borders early, buying precious time to prepare hospitals, set up testing machines and learn from evolving treatments.

But governments, mindful of the damage to their economies and the risk of widespread hunger, have mostly lifted lockdowns.

Despite South Africa’s early efforts to contain the virus, its 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.

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Few African nations have health services as advanced as South Africa.

Reuters





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