JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 150,000 while the World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is still the region least affected.
Concerns remain high as some of Africa’s 54 countries struggle with when to reopen schools and parts of their economies.
Rwanda, the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa to impose a lockdown, this week slowed the easing of it after reporting its first Covid-19 death.
More than 4,300 deaths have been confirmed across the continent as local transmission of the virus increases and testing materials and medical equipment remain in short supply in many places.
Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, State media reported the country’s first coronavirus cases in prisons, with four inmates and two guards testing positive.
The Herald newspaper says authorities declared the prisons in Plumtree, which borders Botswana, and in Beitbridge, which borders South Africa, as “no-go areas.” Authorities also have suspended movement out of prisons countrywide, resulting in some prisoners failing to attend court hearings.
Zimbabwe’s cases more than doubled in the past week to over 200, with most new infections at centers where people crossing the border are quarantined. Most are returning from Botswana and South Africa, which host millions of Zimbabweans who fled economic turmoil in recent years.
South Africa has more than 34,000 virus cases, the most in Africa.
Zimbabwe’s health ministry says the returnees pose the biggest virus threat. Those arrested for illegal border crossings are put into the prisons in Plumtree and Beitbridge.
Zimbabwe earlier released more than 4,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding in facilities where health systems are weak. About 18,000 people are still behind bars.
Meanwhile in the U.S., there are concerns that protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man pinned at the neck by a white police officer, could cause new outbreaks in a nation where the virus has disproportionately affected racial minorities.
And a new estimate by the Congressional Budget Office cautioned the damage to the world’s largest economy could amount to nearly $16 trillion over the next decade if Congress doesn’t work to mitigate the fallout.
Experts are concerned about what’s happening in South America.
“There is a rapid increase in cases, and those (health) systems are coming under increasing pressure,” said Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program.