The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on all countries in Africa, to be on alert during the holiday, as there is a bigger risk of COVID-19 transmission.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti made the disclosure during a virtual press conference.
She said new clusters of cases can emerge in places that have so far been unaffected, 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 but we should do so safely”.
Moeti gave the warning, as 20 countries in the region has experienced an upward increase in the number of infections.
“After reporting a downward trend then a plateau, Africa has been experiencing a rise in cases since early October. Unlike the first wave of cases which was triggered by hotspots in Southern Africa, the latest increase is driven by the North African region, where temperatures are beginning to fall.”
She added that WHO is preparing for a potential rise in hospital admission, by training additional contact tracers and clinician to better handle cases, and boost screening at border crossing points.
“We have identified a worrying trend of disregarding safety measures among populations. As part of an effort to re-energize key public health measures, We are launching the ‘Mask Up, Not Down’ campaign. Large group gatherings and mobility have been identified as risk factors for increasing the spread”.
Moeti said the campaign aims to reach over 40 million young people in Africa with positive messages on the correct use of masks through social media, and to combat complacency, fatigue and misunderstanding around COVID-19 prevention measures.
“In the face of COVID-19, complacency can be dangerous. At this critical moment as Africa begins to see 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 new surge in COVID-19 cases
Dr. Moeti urged member-states to conduct risk assessments at the sub-national level and identify areas of high risk.