With the end of year approaching and many African families planning get-togethers, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is urging countries to be on high alert for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases.

In a statement, the WHO says nearly 20 countries in the region are experience an uptick in cases after reporting a downward trend then a plateau.

The organisation says the continent has been experiencing a rise in cases since early October.

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.

In the 47 countries in the WHO African Region, 19 countries have reported over a 20% increase in new cases in the past 28 days compared with the previous four weeks.

However, 17 countries are also reporting a more than 20% drop in the number of new cases over the past 28 days, compared with the previous four weeks.

There have also been increased reports of health worker infections and deaths, particularly among more experienced health workers.

Large group gatherings and mobility have been identified as risk factors for increasing the spread of COVID-19 and the approaching holiday season can promote these risks, leading to super spreader events.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, says:

“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. 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.”

Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference on Thursday facilitated by APO Group.

She was joined by various colleagues, including the Director Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, Professor Salim  Abdool Karim.

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