Recently filled graves are seen in the Olifantsveil Cemetery outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday Aug. 5.
Recently filled graves are seen in the Olifantsveil Cemetery outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday Aug. 5. Jerome Delay/AP

As Africa approaches 1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases, representing 5% of global cases, testing in many African countries remains a “constant and concerning challenge,” the World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a news conference on Thursday. 

“At the same time, some countries have increased their testing per capita while maintaining a low positivity rate. Countries such as Mauritius, Rwanda, Cape Verde and Botswana,” Dr. Moeti added. 

WHO reported that July has seen a 40% increase in the total number of tests performed on the continent compared to the previous month. 

Meanwhile, 10 countries accounted for 89% of new cases within the past two weeks, WHO said.

Testing assistance: WHO will send technical experts to 11 countries that are experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths to assist in “beefing up community engagement and health education and providing direct material support to strengthen testing capacity,” according to a Thursday press release. 

More than 40 regional experts will be deployed to South Africa, which remains the worst-hit country on the continent and the fifth-worst affected country globally. 

The experts will deploy to several of the most severely affected provinces to support the management in areas of epidemiology, surveillance, and rapid data analysis due to a “need for better capacity at the local level, at the district level and in provinces,” Dr. Moeti said. 

WHO stressed the need for communication surrounding Covid-19 guidelines in African countries to be less centralized and more localized to ensure the messages reach more people in order to contain the outbreak. 

16 countries in the region have seen an increase in new cases by more than 20% in the past two weeks compared to the previous two weeks. However, a number of African countries have seen a recent decline in daily cases, with about 20% fewer reported last week than the week before, Dr. Moeti said.

The countries experiencing a decline include: South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Botswana, Liberia and Benin.

“We do have countries where despite the fact that the governments did a relaxation of the measures, there was an initial increase in cases and several of these countries now we are starting to see a decline,” she added, “The take-home is that we need to monitor this and ensure this decline continues and it’s sustained.”

Latest figures: So far, 41 countries in the region have reported infections of healthcare workers, indicating about 35,000 have been infected, with the majority in South Africa where about 24,000 healthcare workers have been infected, according to Dr. Moeti.

With 992,710 reported cases and 21,617 deaths, according to Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the continent is expected to reach the 1 million mark for confirmed cases this week.