Coronavirus’ slow spread in African countries because of containment measures, undertesting

May 20, 2020

In the past month coronavirus cases in Africa have doubled roughly every two weeks.

By comparison American cases, until recently, were doubling about every three days.

It’s the reason the World Health Organisation suggests the virus is spreading more slowly in Africa than other places.

The continent has less than two per cent of the world’s COVID-19 cases despite accounting for 17 per cent of its population.

Africa has recorded 84,634 cases and 2766 deaths.

But “the true number of infections is likely to be much greater than currently known”, according to The Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to COVID-19, a public-health consortium.

 
Doctors Without Borders nurse Bhelekazi Mdlalose prepares herself to perform a swab test for coronavirus on health workers in Johannesburg. Picture: Michele Spatari/AFP

Doctors Without Borders nurse Bhelekazi Mdlalose prepares herself to perform a swab test for coronavirus on health workers in Johannesburg. Picture: Michele Spatari/AFPSource:AFP

Experts say the reason the continent’s tally isn’t as high as it could be is because of insufficient testing and undercounting.

Despite a donation of more than one million coronavirus testing kits by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, most African countries lack the equipment needed to detect the disease.

While officials in Wuhan were testing a million a people a day, Africa has checked about as many in total.

Nearly half of those tests have come from South Africa and Ghana.

Another crucial reason for the slower spread was Africa’s quick containment measures.

Lockdowns were put in place in most African countries much earlier than others.

At least 42 had locked down by the end of April and 38 had the measures in place for at least three weeks.

A growing number of mosques are reopening across West Africa even as confirmed coronavirus cases rise, as governments find it increasingly difficult to keep them closed during the holy month of Ramadan. Picture: Sylvain Cherkaoui/AP Photo

A growing number of mosques are reopening across West Africa even as confirmed coronavirus cases rise, as governments find it increasingly difficult to keep them closed during the holy month of Ramadan. Picture: Sylvain Cherkaoui/AP PhotoSource:AP

Matshidiso Moeti, the director for the WHO in Africa, predicts the continent will have a slower, longer pandemic.

“While COVID-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hot spots,” she said.

A research paper she wrote with WHO colleagues also outlines Africa’s slower spread is due to the fact Africans travel less, because of sparse road networks.

The researchers believe without the containment measures countries put in place, between 16 and 26 per cent of people would be infected in the first year, and between 29 and 44 million would be symptomatic.

They also say there would be between 83,000 and 190,000 deaths.

Nevertheless, Michel Yao, WHO Africa's emergency response program manager, said some countries may face a huge peak “very soon”.

 

Credit: News.com.au

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