On Wednesday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Africa should wake up and prepare for the worst.
“I think Africa should wake up. My continent should wake up,” said Ghebreyesus, who hails from Ethiopia.
Ghebreyesus comes on the backdrop of new cases of coronavirus rising by the day within the continent. South Africa has now become the continent’s new focus of concern after cases nearly doubled to 116 from two days before.
Fourteen of the latest cases were from local transmission — and six were in children under 10 according to CGTN Africa.
"If the virus comes here it's going to kill everyone," Nicholas Mashabele, an electrician living on the edge of Alexandra township told BBC Africa. "We don't have money to buy hygiene [products] to protect ourselves. We're living in high risk," he added.
As in many poorer communities around South Africa, and indeed across the continent, families in informal settlements in Alexandra on the outskirts of Johannesburg often live in cramped single rooms and share communal outdoor toilets with dozens of neighbours.
South Africa’s health minister, Zweli Mkhize, this week called that kind of rate “explosive” in the country with the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa.
That said, South African government, its National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), and the health system at large have been widely praised for their initial response to the pandemic, and appear to have made good use of the extra weeks this continent has been given - as the pandemic has torn through Asia and Europe - to learn from the mistakes and successes of other nations.
Health experts fear Africa’s fragile health system may not cope with the Covid-19 outbreak and have called governments to be more cautious and act fast rather than waiting for ‘hell to break loose’.
Every day, tens of thousands of people throughout the continent pack into commuter trains, buses, and minivan taxis to head to work or run errands everyday exponentially increasing the risk of faster transmission.
A dozen African countries have already reported a growing number of positive tests for Covid-19 as the illness is officially known, with the number of infected Kenyans now standing at seven.
At least 7,873 people globally have died from coronavirus while more than 194,000 infections have been confirmed in at least 164 countries and territories, according to the World Health Organization.