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Understanding the Number of COVID-19 Cases in Africa

When Africa’s first case of coronavirus was detected in Egypt in February, the rest of the continent prepared for the brunt of a pandemic that has engulfed Europe and spread to the United States, infecting more than 1.6 million worldwide. Health experts warned of the devastation the deadly virus could cause in Africa, where most hospitals are desperately short of equipment and trained staff. Coronavirus has since spread to 52 African countries, but despite a steady rise in the number of confirmed cases, the continent continues to lag behind the global curve for infections and deaths. To date the novel respiratory disease has infected more than 12 800 people on the continent and killed at least 692, according to a tally compiled by AFP. Only the Comoros archipelago and the tiny kingdom of Lesotho have not yet detected any cases. Possibly the greatest question mark in analyses of coronavirus in Africa, is whether the numbers are underestimated, compounded by a global lack of testing capacity. Despite a donation of more than one million coronavirus testing kits by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, most African countries lack the equipment needed to detect the disease. The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, admitted that Africa’s coronavirus statistics were far from “perfect”. But dismissed claims that a high number of infections had slipped under the radar, pointing out that hospitals “would be flooded with people” if that was the case.