Africa coronavirus crisis: Quarter of a BILLION face infection – outbreak to last YEARS
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The model by the WHO’s regional office for Africa has predicted there will be a lower rate of transmission and slower viral spread of COVID-19 across the continent than anywhere else in the world, resulting in up to 190,000 deaths. But the model suggests 22 percent of the one billion people in the near 50 countries measured would be infected in the first year of the pandemic. The disease would also likely linger for much longer than anywhere else – possibly for several years.
The authors of the research warned the massive surge in admissions to hospitals, care needs and “huge impact” on services such as immunisation and maternity will significantly overwhelm health services which are already reaching crisis point.
The WHO report warned Nigeria is set to have the largest number of infections, followed by Algeria and South Africa.
Smaller countries, such as Mauritius, are likely to be safer from infection, but for countries including Niger, Mauritania and Chad, the news is not so positive.
The report added that per head of population, Mauritius, Seychelles and Equatorial Guinea are likely to have the greatest number of infections.
But Africa’s younger age profile is the main driver for the lower transmission rates compared to other countries.
Lower rates of obesity throughout the continent in comparison to other large countries will also help slow the spread of coronavirus, the authors of the report added.
Data analyst Humphrey Karamagi said: “The biggest factor that plays out in our numbers is age.
“We also have very few people who are obese, although the numbers are rising, but not at the levels in the US.
“We tried to factor in what we are seeing on the ground.
“We are seeing slower transmission rates in African countries compared to Europe and the US.
“There might be an effect of reporting but we do not think that fully explains the rates, when we are seeing the pattern we are seeing.
“There is something around social-cultural or developmental or environmental structure that is slowing the transmission rates.”
Last month, the UN Economic Commission published a report that warned of a much worse scenario across Africa, with 1.2 billion infections and 3.3 million deaths.
But the models are not comparable as the latest one uses data from the WHO African Region.
This is a smaller grouping of Africa and does not include Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan or Tunisia.
Since the publication of the UN report, scientists have been able to develop their knowledge of coronavirus and its transmission rates.
The researchers from the latest WHO report have calculated the risk of exposure to coronavirus and predicted the number of infections and deaths for each of the 47 countries in the organization’s specified region.
Mr Karamagi said: “We are including a risk of exposure into our estimation of the risk of transmission.”
The WHO’s research has also benefited from recent data about who is likely to suffer more severe symptoms, such as those who are obese, or suffering from hypertension or diabetes.
The levels of diabetes in Africa are lower than most other places in the world.
But the majority of cases can go undiagnosed, so there could be a greater number of cases of severe infections in people that were thought to be healthy.
Mr Karamagi added: “The pattern that seems to be emerging is that it is diseases of lifestyle that pushes someone to severe illness as opposed to diseases of poverty.
“We have fewer people whose infections will progress to a more serious disease.”
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