While over 98 per cent of Africans are aware of the existence of COVID-19, 20 per cent (1 in 5) of them believe they cannot contract COVID-19, a report shows.
Although relatively low compared to other continents, Africa’s cases of COVID-19 topped over 60,000 Saturday — a third of whom have recovered — with deaths hovering around 2,000.
But as cases increase, a May report by the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to COVID-19 (PERC), a public-private partnership initiative on COVID-19 in AU countries, found that certain misconceptions about coronavirus infections exist among Africans.
Aside 1 in 5 of respondents saying they are immune to the disease, about 54 per cent believe hot climate prevents spread of the disease with another 29 per cent holding that COVID-19 can be contracted from any Chinese person in their country.
The survey, which was conducted between March 29 and April 17, 2020, pools its data from “social, economic, epidemiological, population movement, and security data” from 28 cities across 20 AU countries to measure the “acceptability, impact and effectiveness of public health and social measures for COVID-19.”
A total of 158,709 people were contacted, 16,442 of whom refused to participate, the report states. Final results are based on completed interviews conducted with 20,990 adults, it adds.
Titled “Responding to COVID-19 in Africa: Using data to find a balance”, the report finds that governments who fail to adapt their public health and social measures (PHSMs) to local needs risk unrest and violence among their population.
“The proliferation of peaceful protests demanding government relief is evidence of the strain some people are already under and highlights gaps in current responses.
“It is crucial that member states continue to monitor and act on a variety of data to inform the public health and social measures they implement.
“There is still much to learn about COVID-19 and Member States need to continue to share what they’ve learned with the global community,” the report states.
Countries like Ghana and Nigeria, who have recently relaxed weeks of lockdown to ease tensions and restart the economy, have seen an uptick in cases. Ghana on Saturday reported over 500 new cases. The Same day, Nigeria had about 300, a day after it recorded almost 400 new cases.
The report urged African governments, before considering reopening society, to build public health capacity to test, trace, isolate and treat cases.
With caseloads still relatively low, the survey argues that estimates based on the infection fatality rate suggest that cases have been undercounted.
As of April, the fatality rate was placed at 0.66%. “By that measure, the total number of cases expected to result in 1,591 death (as of April 30) deaths would be closer to 200,000 — six times the number of recorded cases.”
The research work also calls for monitoring of data on how PHSMs meet local COVID-19 conditions and needs, and to determine when and how to lift them in a way that balances lives and livelihoods.
“Engage communities to adapt PHSMs to the local context and effectively communicate about risk to sustain public support, achieve widespread adherence, and shield vulnerable populations,” the report suggests.
Locally made solutions have been set in motion by nations like Senegal. The West African country developed a $1 test kit to ramp up its testing capacity. Madagascar has also launched an indigenous herbal remedy named Covid-Organics, produced from artemisia, a plant said to have proven efficacy against malaria. Madagascar claims the drug cures COVID-19.
PERC member organizations party to the report include: Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies; the World Health Organization; the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team; and the World Economic Forum. IPSOS and Novetta Mission Analytics bring market research expertise and years of data analytic support to the partnership.