Coronavirus: Why is African continent resistance to COVID-19 pandemic

The African continent has reported around 55,000 coronavirus infections.
Since the first case in Africa was reported on February 14, media worldwide, experts, governments and even the World Health Organization (UN) have predicted a ‘catastrophe’ on the continent.
Africans are resistance to coronavirus: African continent has reported around 55,000 Covid-19 infections.Since the first case in Africa was reported on February 14, media worldwide, experts, governments and even the World Health Organization (UN) have predicted a ‘catastrophe’ on the continent.
Why is African continent resistance to COVID-19 pandemic
Although experts warn that it is still too early to claim victory, the ‘looming disaster’ predicted by John Nkengasong, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa, has yet to occur.
While Europe accounts for more than 1.5 million cases confirmed, United States exceeds 1.3 million and Latin America is approaching 250,000, the African continent has reported around 55,000 contagions.
Its relatively low death toll is even more surprising: until May 8, this region of the world had registered just over 2,000 deaths, a balance much lower than that of other continents or even when compared to a city like New York, which has exceeded 20,000 fatalities.
These numbers are more impressive when you consider that Africa is the second most populated continent in the world with its 1.2 billion inhabitants.
But what lies behind the African continent's apparent resistance to the coronavirus pandemic, and why are there so few reported cases of covid-19?
Diversity of approaches
The most affected African countries are South Africa with 10,015 cases, Egypt with 9,400, Morocco with 6,063 and Algeria with 5,723 (figures as of May 11).
Despite numerous warnings since the start of the health crisis, Africa continues to record relatively low numbers of deaths and infections when compared to other regions of the world.
Together, these 4 nations account for almost 50% of all infections in Africa.
Some experts argue that the explanation for the alleged exception the continent has become is that poor local health systems do not allow enough testing and detection of more covid-19 infections, mainly due to lack of resources.
But others assure that other factors also influence, ranging from demographic elements to less mobility.
Anne Soy, BBC Africa deputy editor, explains that there are actually a wide variety of approaches on the continent, since we are talking about 53 nations that have confirmed the presence of the virus and that have taken different strategies to deal with it.
‘We have countries that have taken drastic measures from the beginning and where the number of cases continues to rise, however, there are others that are still in denial and are not implementing measures to prevent the spread of the disease, such as Tanzania,’ she also says.
South Africa implemented containment measures, considered by many to be the strictest in the world, in mid-March.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli is one of the few world leaders who continues to minimize the severity of the virus. Last week, he questioned the accuracy of the covid-19 tests and fired the head of the national health laboratory in charge of carrying them out, denouncing ‘foul play.’
Magufuli had previously asked Tanzanians to pray for the coronavirus to go, and his government does not offer daily updates on the outbreak's progress.
Actions taken on time
Despite a few exceptions, most African countries have in common that they have taken action ’faster than the rest of the world,’ notes Soy.
 It’s been more decisive and drastic measures have been taken very early Rwanda was one of the first. Implement one confinement when they were less than 20 cases confirmed closed the door. They stopped international flights,’ he says.
Rwanda imposed containment measures when they had fewer than 20 confirmed cases.
South Africa, the African country that until now has the highest number of infected, imposed since March 27 one of the strictest confinements in the world that prohibited all commercial flights and even the sale of liquor and cigarettes.

Due mainly to the slump in South African economic activity, its health authorities began to relax some measures last week.

Experience with epidemics

Although the coronavirus pandemic is the most serious health crisis that our generation has experienced, it is far from being the first. Especially in Africa, a continent that has faced strong epidemics of malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, HIV and Ebola.
All of these diseases have taken lives, but they have also forced the African scientific and medical community to innovate.
The Ebola epidemic taught some African countries how to contain outbreaks.
‘Their population is used to reacting quickly, to using volunteers in rural populations. I think that has allowed them to circulate information on prevention measures and apply them in time,’ Karl Blanchet, global health expert, said. health emergencies at the Geneva Center for Education and Research on Humanitarian Action (Cerah).
The recent Ebola epidemic that hit West Africa with the greatest intensity between 2014 and 2016 wreaked havoc in countries such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and left more than 11,000 deaths.
Although the WHO declared the end of the health emergency in the region in March 2016, authorities are still on the alert in some of the nations most affected by the outbreak due to the appearance of isolated cases.
‘Ebola was a problem that was still there when the covid-19 pandemic was declared. That means some African countries already had detection infrastructure at airports. Public health officials and non-contact thermometers were already in ports input,’ explains Soy.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa also taught Africa the importance of detecting cases quickly, treating confirmed cases, and how to isolate the community.
‘Because of that epidemic, people even stopped shaking hands in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They created awareness,’ he adds.

A less globalized continent

For Frederique Jacquerioz, the low mobility existing between the countries of Africa and the rest of the world would be another factor.
Frederique Jacquerioz, an expert in African public health from the team of tropical and humanitarian medicine doctors at the University Hospital of Geneva, in Switzerland, estimates that another factor that may explain Africa's resistance to the pandemic is the low mobility between the countries of the continent and the rest of the world.
‘The first confirmed cases in Africa were young people, Africans or Europeans, who had traveled, returned to Africa and brought the virus with them,’ the doctor said.
In this globalized world, this was one of the factors that fueled the spread of the virus in Europe, where groups of young people spend weekends in different cities. Perhaps in Africa, in this sense, there is less mobility between countries, he continues.
This hypothesis of being a little less exempt for the effects of globalization is supported by several experts.

Blanchet, director of Cerah, gives as an example three of the countries that so far have been the most affected by the virus: South Africa, Egypt and Algeria.
‘They are the nations with the most air links to China. The exception is Ethiopia, which despite not being in that group, has a direct connection with the Asian country. But it has not yet been hit hard by the pandemic. That is something that can't be explained,’ he says.

Is there a demographic factor?

Africa is the continent with the youngest population.

The African demographic pyramid is another element that may have helped the death toll in the region not be higher: Africa is the continent with the youngest population in the world.
Blanchet supports this hypothesis and highlights that ‘the average age in Africa is 19.7 years, while in Europe it is around 40 years, for example.’
While Anne Soy acknowledges that this could be one of the factors, she warns that there is still no scientific study to support this theory.
‘It may be one of the advantages of Africa, but at the same time you also have a large population of malnourished children, who have a weaker immune system than the rest of the population, making them more vulnerable. Does this mean that we would have to see more affected African children?’ he asks.

The risks of the continent

The WHO warns that the coronavirus could kill around 190,000 people in Africa in the next 12 months.
On Friday, the WHO warned that the coronavirus in Africa could ‘burn slowly’ for several years and kill around 190,000 people in the next 12 months.
This warning comes a month after the agency estimated that the outbreak would cause 10 million infections on the continent within six months.
A new study published this week by the WHO predicts that between 29 million and 44 million people could be infected in the first year of the covid-19 pandemic if containment measures fail.
Various analysts have stressed that the impact of the pandemic will actually depend on the actions that governments take.
The director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Stephen Karingi, told the British newspaper The Guardian that it must be recognized that the African authorities have been ‘doing a lot’ to contain the outbreak.
 ‘The projections were that we would now be in a war situation, but due to measures taken by governments and communities, transmission rates are lower than what we have seen elsewhere.’
I am believed that movement restrictions have slowed the spread of the virus, but authorities must remain vigilant especially in the slums of urban areas in Africa.
‘They have a high population density and very poor and weak health services. Some of them do not even have access to water,’ he says.
The publisher highlights that most of its inhabitants would have problems with staying confined for a long time, as they are casual workers who do not eat if they do not go out to work.
Despite the diversity of opinion and debate about why Africa has resisted the covid-19 pandemic better than other regions with more resources, the vast majority of experts agree that it is still too early to speak of an ‘African exception’.
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