In terms of confirmed cases, Africa accounts for only a small proportion of the global total – just 5%.
But the global humanitarian relief body, the International Rescue Committee, says it believes the true scale of the pandemic may be hidden because of a lack of testing and issues with data.
Where are Africa’s hotspots?
South Africa has the highest recorded number of total cases and reported deaths in Africa, and the fourth highest number of cases in the world.
Reported deaths appear lower compared with other countries in the world badly hit by coronavirus.
But research from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) indicates the number of people who have died from the virus could be much higher than officially reported.
It says excess deaths, which is the difference between deaths reported over a particular period and the historical average, rose by 17,000 – that’s a 59% increase compared with previous years. There are some signs that the case numbers in South Africa could be stabilising, and the WHO says the hospitalisation rate is also slowing down.
Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, accounts for more than a third of the total cases. But Western Cape province (where Cape Town is located) has reported most deaths.
Egypt has seen case numbers rising rapidly since mid-May, but there are indications that this may have reached a peak with recorded new infections dropped off in early July.
There is also concern about what is happening in Nigeria, which is third in terms of total cases recorded so far on the continent.
Ethiopia and Zambia have been among the top five countries with the highest percentage increases over the last month, according to the WHO.
It’s worth stressing that some parts of the continent have seen relatively few cases, and the Africa CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) says just five countries account for more than 75% of all reported cases.
The reported death rate per capita has been low compared to other parts of the world, despite the poor health infrastructure in many African countries.
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The WHO says this could be partly because of the relatively young population in Africa – more than 60% under the age of 25. Covid-19 is known to have a higher mortality rate for older age groups.
Health problems common to richer countries, like obesity and type 2 diabetes, are also less common in Africa.
In terms of what proportion of people who get Covid-19 go on to die, there are nine African countries with rates comparable with or higher than the most recent global average rate of 3.7%.
The top five are:
But Githinji Gitahi, the head of Amref Health Africa, an NGO which specialises in health matters, says the higher fatality rates could be an indication of much higher infection levels than are being detected by testing.
The fewer tests you carry out, the fewer cases you find, and so the number of deaths appears relatively high.
Ten countries account for about 80% of the total tests conducted – South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mauritius, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda.
There are wide variations in testing rates, with South Africa doing the most and Nigeria doing relatively few, according to Our World in Data, a UK-based project which collates Covid-19 information.
By 12 August, South Africa had done 56 tests per 1,000 people, compared with 167 in the UK and 193 in the US.
Nigeria had achieved 1.6 tests per 1,000 people by 12 August, while Kenya had done 6.7 and Ghana 13.6 by 11 August.
It’s also worth pointing out that for some African countries, it is impossible to know what exactly is happening due to a lack of any data or data being incomplete.
In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has voiced doubts about the validity of virus testing results at the national laboratory, and has allowed only limited data on infection rates and testing to be made public.
Equatorial Guinea had a row with the WHO after accusing its country representative of inflating the number of Covid-19 cases. For a while it held back its data, but has now started sharing it again.
Note: The graphics in this page use a different source for figures for France from that used by Johns Hopkins University, which results in a slightly lower overall total. US figures do not include Puerto Rico, Guam or the US Virgin Islands