The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged African countries to intensify vigilance in order to avoid a spike in COVID-19 positive cases during the holiday season.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said the holiday season, whose hallmark is intensive mobility and family reunions, could reverse gains achieved towards the pandemic's containment.
"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," Moeti said in a statement released in Nairobi.
She warned that new clusters might emerge during the festive season across the Sub-Saharan African region if communities fail to adhere to public health guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
"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," said Moeti.
Africa's COVID-19 caseload and fatalities stood at 2,013,388 and 48,408 respectively on Thursday based on statistics from Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.
The continent has experienced surging infections since October with statistics from WHO indicating that 19 countries have reported over 20 percent increase in new cases in the last 28 days compared with the previous four weeks.
On a positive note, 17 countries have witnessed more than 20 percent drop in the number of new positive cases over the last 28 days thanks to the efficacy of containment measures.
Moeti said that reopening of economies and flouting of public health guidelines like frequent handwashing, wearing of face coverings and physical distancing, was behind the surging infections in Africa.
"There is a certain level of fatigue around the virus and the upcoming holiday season might exacerbate the risks," said Moeti, adding that targeted interventions like widespread testing and contact tracing are key to contain the pandemic.
She said that African governments should strengthen local healthcare systems to enhance their capacity to respond swiftly to new clusters during the holiday season.
Moeti said that localized interventions should place emphasis on robust testing, contact tracing and enhanced protection of vulnerable demographics to avert strain on health facilities that could trigger a spike in fatalities.