Why Are Africa’s COVID-19 Figures Lower Than Other Regions?

While the global COVID-19 death toll surpassed the 100,000 mark on Friday and cases exceeded 1.7 million, Africa’s figures remain relatively low compared to the other continents.

As of Saturday 11 April, 52 countries on the continent had recorded cases of the disease, with a total of nearly 11,000 COVID-19 cases, and over 500 deaths. Over 1,000 people have recovered.

When compared to other regions, Africa’s infection rate is much lower, a fact that has puzzled health experts across the world.

But the World Health Organization is warning of possible tough times ahead for the continent as countries continue to report new cases of COVID-19.

Some experts have amplified the warning, sating Africa may experience a peaking in the days ahead.

“During the last four days we can see that the numbers have already doubled,” AFP quotes Michel Yao, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa’s emergency response programme manager.

“If the trend continues… some countries may face a huge peak very soon,” Yao added.

Africa’s low COVID-19 numbers have sparked talk that the continent may not have the capacity to test its population, hence the numbers reported may not be an accurate representation.

The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, admitted that Africa’s coronavirus statistics were far from “perfect”.

“We just lack the means,” he told AFP.

But Nkengasong dismissed claims that a high number of infections had slipped under the radar, pointing out that if that was the case, hospitals “would be flooded with people”.

Another school of thought has attributed the low numbers to various actions taken by African governments.

This means that as Europe and Asia battled the disease in its initial stages, African governments took lessons and emulated the preventive measures taken by the affected states.

This may then have helped reduce chances of the spread of the disease.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Rebecca Moeti, cautioned that it was “too early to say” whether anti-COVID-19 measures were slowing the epidemic in Africa.

In his address on Friday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom warned of a possible burst in COVID-19 cases in Africa.

“I want to take a moment to highlight Africa, where we are seeing the spread of the virus to rural areas. We are now seeing clusters of cases and community spread in more than 16 countries. We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lack the resources of those in cities,” said Tedros.

Tedros reiterated a call by the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Rebecca Moeti, to have countries localize their responses and strengthening their existing public health care infrastructure.


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