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COVID-19: ARE THERE HIDDEN DEATHS IN AFRICA?

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A passenger's body temperature is being tested at the gate of entry upon arrival at the Murtala International Airport in Lagos, on March 2, 2020. - Nigeria is monitoring 58 people who had contact with an Italian man infected with the new coronavirus, the health minister said Monday, as officials scrambled to stop the disease spreading. Africa's most populous country on Friday confirmed the first case of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa after the patient was diagnosed in the economic hub Lagos. (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI / AFP) (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI/AFP via Getty Images)


A few months back, the whole world had feared for Africa’s fate in the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. Many health experts had predicted doom for the “dark continent”. Those predictions were expected. The demographics of Africa is such that highly infectious diseases of this nature would very easily devastate a greater number of its people. The healthcare systems in Africa was already nothing to write home about. And judging from the overwhelming of much better healthcare systems in developed countries, Africa was indeed doomed. Or so it seemed.

The presence of the covid-19 changed very little in the structure and efficiency of healthcare preparedness in Africa. Even with the very low rate of infections and deaths, some African countries already looked overwhelmed. Then there is the persistently low literacy rate, making dissemination of sensitive (e.g. scientific) information in Africa very difficult. The continent’s future in this ongoing pandemic did not look bright.

Fast forward a few months and the figures are speaking a different language. The virus seems to have spared Africa?

As at July 3rd 2020, there were 11,102,892 confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus in the world with 526,586 deaths. The United states topped the chart with 2,866,210 cases and 131,842 deaths. Many other countries like Brazil, Russia and India were seeing spikes in cases with many more deaths by the day. It is, therefore, surprising to see the entire continent of Africa with 446,413 reported cases and 10,818 recorded deaths.

This could be as a result of one of two possibilities. There could be underreporting of cases of the outbreak OR the virus might be acting differently in Africa. Both possibilities could offer valid reasons for the relatively low figures. Recent findings by the World Health Organization show that Africa’s situation might be a combination of the two. This is no surprise as viruses mutate (change form and behavior) from time to time and when in different environments.

Matshidiso Moeti, the regional director of the WHO said the organization believes “there is certain underestimation of cases” on the continent. She was quick to indicate, however, that the organization was working closely with countries to improve their surveillance.

Matshidisa Moeti had earlier in June offered comments to the effect that the WHO regional office had realized that though the disease had widened its reach beyond capital cities and tests supplies were inadequate, cases were not being missed. Otherwise, there should have been a noticeable number of reported strange deaths in Africa.

So, although the situation of Africa (with respect to covid-19) is far from perfect, the countries ARE NOT HARBOURING SIGNIFICANT UNRECORDED COVID-19 INFECTIONS.

(Follow this link for detailed global update on Covid-19; or this for Ghana’s update)

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