Image courtesy: World Health Organisation (WHO)
The situation around the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that broke out in China in December 2019 continues to evolve. This is Namibia Fact Check‘s weekly update of the pandemic.
During the week of 9 – 13 March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The announcement was made on 11 March 2020.
On 12 March 2020, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus justified the pandemic designation by stating:
“We have made this assessment for two main reasons: first, because of the speed and scale of transmission.
Almost 125,000 cases have now been reported to WHO, from 118 countries and territories. In the past two weeks, the number of cases reported outside China has increased almost 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has almost tripled.
The second reason is that despite our frequent warnings, we are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it.”– WHO
In concluding his remarks, the WHO head gave the following advice:
“Let me summarize it in four key areas. First, prepare and be ready. Second, detect, protect and treat. Third, reduce transmission. Fourth, innovate and learn. I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate and scale up your emergency response mechanisms; Communicate with your people about the risks and how they can protect themselves – this is everybody’s business; Find, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact; Ready your hospitals; Protect and train your health workers. And let’s all look out for each other, because we need each other.”– WHO
Already on 9 March 2020, an extraordinary meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) health ministers had recommended the suspension of all the group’s face-to-face meetings, stating in a communique issued on the day:
“The meeting recommended a temporary suspension of SADC regional face-to-face meetings and encourage utilization of Modern Technology such as video-conferences, Webinars and Skype Calls for holding such meetings until such a time when the situation has been contained. The temporary suspension to be monitored by the Chairperson of Council, supported by the SADC Secretariat.”– SADC health ministers
The economic impacts of the spreading COVID-19 outbreak have continued to deepen during the week, as negative forecasts have darkened the short to medium term prospects of the global economy. For a quick-read analysis of this situation go here.
For the latest WHO situation report on the COVID-19 pandemic, see here.
Here are some quick facts about COVID-19 in Africa:
- On 12 March 2020, Ghana and Gabon joined the growing ranks of sub-Sahara African countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases. This has brought the number of African countries with confirmed cases to 10 by 13 March 2020. The affected countries are Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Togo, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Gabon. Altogether 14 African countries, including 4 north African states, now have confirmed cases, with Egypt the worst affected.
- By late on 12 March 2020, South Africa had confirmed 17 COVID-19 infections, spread across the country.
- Despite testing a number of suspected cases during the week, Namibia still has not confirmed any infections.
- As of late on 12 March 2020, there were about 125 000 confirmed global infections spread across more than 110 countries, including almost 5 000 confirmed deaths since the outbreak started in December 2019.
As the COVID-19 outbreak has spread worldwide, so too has misinformation about the virus. In response to the rising tide of misinformation around the outbreak, on 6 March 2020, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) deputy executive director, said in a statement:
“To the creators of such falsehoods, we offer a simple message: STOP. Sharing inaccurate information and attempting to imbue it with authority by misappropriating the names of those in a position of trust is dangerous and wrong.”– UNICEF
For up-to-date information on COVID-19, Namibians are urged to monitor the COVID-19 webpages of the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as those of other credible media sources.