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Africa will be next epicentre of coronavirus, says WHO

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Police in Lagos, Nigeria trying to manage crowds amid coronavirus outbreak
Police in Lagos, Nigeria trying to manage crowds amid coronavirus outbreak   -   Copyright  AP   -   AP
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The World Health Organization says the number of known coronavirus cases in Africa has risen by 51 percent over the past week.

It believes that the epicentre of the virus will move from Europe to Africa next.

The number of reported deaths is up by 60 percent over the same period but the real figures are likely to be even higher than those being reported, its Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday.

Ghebreyesus also addressed concerns around wet markets, the markets across Asia where live animals and wildlife are often sold for food.

Although the origin of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, has not yet been identified, many scientists suspect the virus jumped to humans from animals at a wet market in Wuhan, China.

Ghebreyesus said the markets were "an important source for food and livelihoods for millions" but recommended they were only reopened "on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards."

Lagos is Africa's largest city and the authorities have been struggling to manage the crowds amid Nigeria's coronavirus lockdown.

Mile 12, the megacity's largest perishable food market, was on Friday crammed with traders and shoppers elbowing their way through narrow paths sandwiched by huge baskets of tomatoes, with little social distancing in sight.

Femi Odusanya, consultant for the market association, said the challenges were "enormous," and called for the government to "do more to make sure that we keep people safe and at home."

Under a government initiative, the management have set up an offshoot makeshift market in Ogudu, in an attempt to reduce crowds by bringing the produce closer to the communities they serve.

But as desperation mounts, delivery trucks have come under attack, food items stolen and vans damaged.

For Lagos' poor, the priority is getting food onto the table.

"People must eat. I strongly believe that hunger is much more dangerous than the coronavirus so we must do our best to ensure that people get food to eat," said the market association's chairperson Shehu Usman.