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WHO urges Africa to be alert to COVID-19

With the festive season approaching and many African families planning get-togethers, the World Health Organization (WHO) calls on countries to be on high alert to prevent a possible spike in COVID-19 cases.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, warmed the organization has identified large group gatherings and mobility as risk factors for increasing the spread of COVID-19 and the approaching holiday season can promote these risks, leading to super spreader events.

Dr. Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference on Thursday, facilitated by APO Group.

Participants also included Prosper Zo’o Minto’o, Regional Director for Western and Central Africa, International Civil Aviation Organization, Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim, Director Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa and Co-Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and Professor of Global Health, Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

“There is a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission during the festive season as people spend their holidays together. New cases can emerge in unaffected places as people travel or gather for festivities. But we can lower the risks by wearing masks, limiting the numbers of people who come together, observing physical distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene. We can celebrate yet do so,” said Dr. Moeti.

In 47 WHO countries, 19 have reported over 20% increase in new cases in the past 28 days compared to the last four weeks.

Seventeen countries reported over 20% drop in the number of recent cases over the past 28 days, compared with the previous four weeks.

There is an increased report of health workers infections and deaths among more experienced health workers.

WHO has identified a worrying trend of disregarding COVID-19 safety measures.

As part of an effort to re-energize public health measures, WHO is launching the “Mask Up, Not Down” campaign.

The campaign aims to reach over 40 million young people in Africa with messages on the correct use of masks through social media and to combat complacency, fatigue, and misunderstanding around COVID-19 prevention measures.

“COVID-19, complacency can be dangerous,” said Dr. Moeti, adding that at this moment, as Africa sees an uptick in cases, we need to re-energize and recommit to wearing masks.

I know many are finding the public health measures cumbersome, but without action from everyone, Africa risks a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases,” added Dr. Moeti.

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