The head of the African Centers for Disease Control (CDC) praised African states for successfully stemming the spread of the coronavirus.
Africa has recorded around 1.4 million cases and 34,000 deaths since March.
These numbers are much lower than in Europe, Asia or the Americas, with reported cases continuing to decline.
Early interventions played a crucial role in tackling the spread of the virus, John Nkengasong, director of the African CDC, told the BBC’s Newsday program.
Africa CDC is the health agency for the 55 members of the African Union (AU).
The continent of more than one billion inhabitants represents a little less than 5% of cases in the world and 3.6% of deaths.
Dr Nkengasong called “false” suggestions that cases and deaths in Africa were drastically underreported.
“We may not have picked up all the cases, just like in other parts of the world … but we do not see people across the continent falling dead on the streets or mass burials in progress,” he said said Dr Nkengasong.
All African states introduced a series of measures to tackle the virus as soon as the first cases were reported in March. Many, including South Africa, have introduced nationwide lockdowns, but others like Ethiopia have opted for less stringent measures.
Dr Nkengasong, however, attributed the low number to a “joint continental effort”, which focused on “stepping up testing and follow-up to contact tracing and especially masking”, or wearing masks. .
“In many countries, including Ethiopia where I live, if you go to the streets of Addis Ababa, you will see that there is almost 100% masking,” he added.
What other reasons did he give?
Africa’s relatively young population has also contributed to the low number of cases, Dr Nkengasong said.
In addition, the focus on community initiatives and the experience of contact tracing in the fight against diseases like Ebola, has helped countries fight the virus, he said.
“This virus is in the community, and without a strong community response and strong community engagement, there is no way we can fight it,” added Dr Nkengasong.
Warning about a possible second wave
Analysis by Anne Soy, BBC News, Nairobi
The decline in the number of Covid-19 cases on the continent is mainly driven by South Africa, which accounts for nearly half of the cases in Africa but also a large proportion of tests.
As of Tuesday, South Africa had carried out more than four million tests. By comparison, the entire continent of more than 50 countries passed the 10 million test mark a month ago.
By international standards, this number is relatively low, and it is attributed to the global shortage of testing equipment and a lack of manufacturing in Africa. It continues to undermine Africa’s “success”.
While there may be cases that have gone undetected, experts such as Dr Nkengasong say there is no indication of a large number of unexplained deaths in most countries.
But there are warnings there could be a second wave of infections as more countries relax restrictions.