• The World Health Organization held a media briefing to update the public on the COVID-19 outbreak. Streamed live on Friday, 17 April.
  • Though cases are rising across the African continent, WHO officials stressed the virus could still be contained.

Don’t lose hope. That was the message from officials to the continent of Africa in a week when reported cases there spiked 51% and deaths jumped 60%.

Despite the rise, containment was still possible, said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead. The message was in response to a question from an African journalist during the briefing's media question and answer session.

Testing capabilities had strengthened across in the continent, officials noted, including the 1 million tests the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for COVID-19 announced would be rolled out across the continent next week.

Key supplies were also being made available, some coming through Solidarity Flight shipments, a WHO programme delivering protective equipment and other supplies to countries around the world.

Additionally, the continent had experience tackling epidemics and other viral outbreaks, including Ebola and polio. As a result, the officials said, the continent had proven its ability to mount a response to infectious diseases, find cases and engage and empower communities. “There are real capacities across Africa to do the job that needs to be done,” said Michael J. Ryan, Chief Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

To be sure, officials noted, hard work is ahead. Containment will require adequate testing, handwashing solutions in areas without running water and making treatment centres available to care for patients appropriately. “We need to do more,” said Van Kerhove. “It's going to be a hard fight.”

Still, the virus had not yet spread past the point of containment. “We believe a lot can be done to mitigate the impact of the virus,” Ryan added. “And we believe that we need to accelerate those efforts as the number of cases grows on a daily basis on the continent.”

“I don't want you to lose hope,” added Van Kerkhove. “Containment is possible."