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The World Health Organization (WHO) called on African countries Thursday to maintain tough measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus as some countries began easing lockdowns including South Africa, which has recorded Africa's highest Covid-19 death toll.

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Faced with Covid-19, many African countries have implemented partial or total containment measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.

These measures have helped slow the spread of Covid but it remains a considerable threat to public health, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, in a statement.

It is important to maintain strong surveillance, case detection and testing measures to end the pandemic, she said. If governments abruptly end these measures, they risk losing the gains that have been made so far against Covid-19, the WHO warned.

“Deciding when and how to lift these measures is extremely challenging,” Moeti said in a video post on Twitter. “There is always a need to balance.”

“We hope that these decisions are made having taken into account overall the balance between enabling economies to continue to grow and stopping the spread of a pandemic that can have profound long-term impact on the economies.”

Responding effectively to the #COVID19 pandemic means making tough decisions. Political leaders have to strike a balance between actions to control the pandemic & the impact of the measures on the lives of their people & national economies. pic.twitter.com/SwGIPKS9mk

— Dr Matshidiso Moeti (@MoetiTshidi) April 30, 2020

South Africa began to gradually loosen its strict coronavirus lockdown on Friday, allowing some industries to reopen after five weeks of restrictions that plunged its struggling economy deeper into turmoil. The economy of Africa's most industrialised nation was already teetering when the lockdown kicked into gear on March 27 to contain the spread of infections.

To combat the economic destruction, the government has adopted a gradual and phased approach to reopen the country from May 1.

Around 1.5 million workers in selected industries return to work in the next phase under strict health conditions, according to Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel.

Winter clothing, textile and packaging manufacturing are among the industries permitted to reopen factories. Restaurants will also open, but only for takeaway deliveries. Controversial bans on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol will remain in effect.

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