The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the continent of Africa has climbed to more than 10,000 and caused more than 500 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday.

Africa’s first Covid-19 case was reported in Egypt in February and the novel coronavirus has spread since then. However the number of cases has grown “exponentially” in recent weeks, according to WHO officials.

“COVID-19 has the potential not only to cause thousands of deaths, but to also unleash economic and social devastation. Its spread beyond major cities means the opening of a new front in our fight against this virus,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, in a written statement Wednesday.

“This requires a decentralised response, which is tailored to the local context,” Moeti said. “Communities need to be empowered, and provincial and district levels of government need to ensure they have the resources and expertise to respond to outbreaks locally.”

The statement noted that WHO has been working with governments across Africa to “scale up” their response capacities when it comes to coordination, surveillance, testing, isolation, case management, contact tracing, infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement during the coronavirus pandemic.