Scientists Look into Africa’s Low Covid-19 Fatality Rates

By April this year, Covid-19 had already caused chaos in Asia and Europe, with the World Health Organization (WHO) predicting in May that the virus could kill around 160,000 people in Africa this year. According to Jo-Anna Gray from SUPPLEMENTNATION.COM.AU, this prediction was mainly based on the continent’s overburdened health care system, lack of testing facilities, overcrowding and lack of nutritious food and supplements. “Approximately 821 million people in Africa are malnourished. Malnourishment, in turn, can affect the immune system and resistance to disease.”

Nevertheless, this prediction has not materialized, with Africa’s covid-19 fatality rates relatively low in comparison to other continents. According to Reuters, Africa’s coronavirus death rate stands at 35,000 deaths among more than 1.4-million people, or 2.4 per cent. This is significantly lower than 4.5 per cent in Europe and 2.9 per cent in North America. Even Africa’s worst affected countries have fared quite well compared to European countries with Ethiopia recording a 1.6 per cent death rate, Nigeria a 1.9 percent death rate and South Africa a 2.4 per cent death rate—much lower than Italy’s 11.6 per cent and Britain’s 9 per cent.

“Based on what we have seen so far it is unlikely that we are going to see anything at the scale that we are seeing in Europe – both in terms of infections and mortality,” said Rashida Ferrand, a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine professor working at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare, Zimbabwe.

While experts assert that many coronavirus deaths in Africa are probably not being recorded, it is pretty clear that covid-19 fatality rates in Africa are probably lower than was initially predicted. This could be for a number of reasons, including the continent’s youthful population who are more likely to recover if they contract the disease.

Due to the relative isolation of many African countries, many governments and medical personnel had ample time to prepare for the outbreak. For example, international travel to many African countries is limited and domestic travel can also be difficult. This can be compared to the situation in Australia, where the government contained the spread of the virus by limiting international and domestic travel. “We got the gift of time,” said Thumbi Mwangi, a senior research fellow at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases. “We had an amount of preparation that others did not.”

In addition, many African governments were quick to take measures to contain the spread of the virus by enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing, as well as introducing screenings at airports and suspending flights from certain regions. For example, South Africa introduced its lockdown very early on, when the country only had 400 cases in March. “Africa brought down the hammer earlier in terms of coronavirus lockdowns,” said Tim Bromfield, regional director for East and Southern Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

 

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