Coronavirus cases in Africa are now over 1.21 million and the death toll on the continent has passed 28,500, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said in an update on Thursday.

The total number of COVID-19 infections stands at 1,212,012, including 28,596 fatalities and 942,249 recoveries.

Southern Africa is the continent’s worst-hit region with 658,100 cases and 14,400 deaths.

The state of South Africa accounts for a majority of these infections and fatalities — 615,700 cases and 13,500 deaths.

With 218,800 infections, North Africa is second in terms of COVID-19 cases, followed by 157,300 in West Africa, 124,800 in East Africa, and 53,000 in Central Africa.

The pandemic has claimed at least 8,200 lives in North Africa, 2,600 in East Africa, 2,400 in West Africa, and 1,000 in Central Africa.

The hardest-hit countries in these regions are North Africa’s Egypt with 97,800 cases and 5,300 deaths, Nigeria in West Africa with 53,000 infections and 1,000 fatalities, Ethiopia in East Africa with 45,200 cases and 725 deaths, and Cameroon in Central Africa with 18,700 infections and 408 fatalities.

Push for stronger health systems

Top representatives of African countries have voiced concern over the impact of COVID-19 on the continent, stressing that the pandemic was a poignant reminder of the need for countries to bolster their health systems.

“This virus has not only affected our health, but also tested our way of living, societal norms and economies at large,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said at an online event part of the 70th session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa.

“In Africa, we quickly felt the impact of the pandemic due to our weak health systems coupled with the highest disease burden in the world.”

The African leaders said the pandemic has shown the risk countries face if their populations are unable to access available services, and if their systems are not resilient enough to absorb the stress of such shock events.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, emphasized the importance of investing in stronger health systems across the continent.

“The coronavirus pandemic has proven once again the importance of investing in health systems, enhancing equitable access to care, and improving readiness to prevent and control outbreaks,” she said.

She said any recovery from the pandemic would be incomplete without concerted measures to strengthen health systems.

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