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Social, environmental factors behind Africa’s low COVID-19 cases — WHO

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Social, environmental factors behind Africa’s low COVID-19 cases — WHO

By Sola Ogundipe

Despite the fragile health systems, African countries have so far been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, even though this is not to say that there have not been fatalities.

But the fact is that Africa is much less affected by the coronavirus than the Western world.  The rates of infection are lower and Africans seem twice as likely to get infected with the virus without suffering any illness according to preliminary results of ongoing studies by the World Health Organisation WHO.  Already, the downward trend in COVID-19 cases and the low number of deaths being witnessed in Nigeria,  Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal, and South Africa over the past two months, has been described as a positive development.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti,  who made this observation, however, warned against complacency.

“The downward trend that we have seen in Africa over the past two months is undoubtedly a positive development and speaks to the robust and decisive public health measures taken by governments across the region.

READ ALSO: Reasons Africa escaped ‘exponential’ rise in COVID-19 cases ― WHO

“Africa has not witnessed an exponential spread of COVID-19 as many initially feared, but the slower spread of infection in the region means we expect the pandemic to continue to smolder for some time, with occasional flare-ups.”

Moeti said COVID-19 transmission in Africa has been marked by relatively fewer infections, which have been on the decline owing to a variety of socio-ecological factors as well as early and strong public health measures taken by governments across the region.

“A mix of socio-ecological factors such as low population density and mobility, hot and humid climate, lower age group, interacting to accentuate their individual effects, are likely contributing to the pattern seen in Africa.

“But we must not become complacent. Other regions of the world have experienced similar trends only to find that as social and public health measures are relaxed, cases start ramping up again.”

While governments have made efforts to improve COVID-19 testing, with recent testing rising from a cumulative 74 tests per 10,000 people in 44 assessed countries on 23 August 2020 to 93 per 10 000 people on 21 September 2020, the level is still low.

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