Despite the current relatively fewer COVID-19 related deaths across Africa in relation to other parts of the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO), believes about 190,000 people could still die in the continent if pandemic is not properly managed.
This estimate was drawn by WHO African region study on Thursday.
“Eighty-three thousand to 190 000 people in Africa could die of COVID-19 and 29 million to 44 million could get infected in the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail,” the study said
Currently, data from worldometer said 2127 deaths have been recorded in Africa, with Egypt leading (495), Algeria ( 490) and Morroco (183). Nigeria has recorded over 100 fatalities.
The research was based on ‘prediction modelling’ and used 47 countries in the WHO African Region with a total population of one billion as case studies.
“The new estimates are based on modifying the risk of transmission and disease severity by variables specific to each country in order to adjust for the unique nature of the region,” the report said.
It observed “slower rate of transmission, lower age of people with severe disease and lower mortality rates compared to what is seen in the most affected countries in the rest of the world”.
“This is largely driven by social and environmental factors slowing the transmission, and a younger population that has benefitted from the control of communicable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis to reduce possible vulnerabilities,” it said.
According to the report, the lower rate of transmission “suggests a more prolonged outbreak over a few years.”
The study also revealed that “smaller African countries” alongside Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon “were at a high risk if containment measures are not prioritised”.
“The predicted number of cases that would require hospitalisation would overwhelm the available medical capacity in much of Africa,” it said.
The study says countries across Africa need to expand their capacities particularly in primary hospitals and ensure that basic emergency care is included in primary health systems.
“All countries in the WHO African Region are using these results through the WHO country offices to inform their containment actions.
“The detailed methods and results are currently in press at the British Medical Journal-Global Health after extensive peer review and validation,” it said.
Meanwhile, at a virtual meeting via twitter on Thursday, the WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said COVID-19 “will likely not spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world.”
“It likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots. (But) We need to test, trace, isolate and treat,” Ms Moeti said.
She, however, warned that COVID-19 “could become a fixture for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region.”
She stressed the importance of promoting effective containment measures which she noted was ever more crucial, “as sustained and widespread transmission of the virus could severely overwhelm the health systems.”
“Curbing a large scale outbreak is far costlier than the ongoing preventive measures governments are undertaking to contain the spread of the virus,” she said.
Ms Moeti also announced these new projections at the meeting.