The World Health Organization (WHO) Africa office has urged African countries to be on high alert for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases as the holidays near.

It said after reporting a downward trend and then a plateau, the African continent has been experiencing a rise in cases since early October. Nearly 20 countries in the region are experiencing an uptick in cases.

“As we near the time of year when people get on the move to spend their holidays together, there is a bigger risk of COVID-19 transmission,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said during a virtual press conference Thursday.

“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 yet do so safely,” she added.

There are over 2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent, with more than 1.7 million recoveries and over 48,000 deaths, according to the WHO.

“In the face of COVID-19, complacency can be dangerous,” Moeti said, adding that as Africa begins to see a spike in cases, people need to recommit to wearing masks because Africa risks a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

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, according to the WHO.

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