Why has Covid-19 transmission in Africa been so low

FILE PHOTO Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African news agency/ANA

FILE PHOTO Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African news agency/ANA

Published Sep 25, 2020


CAPE TOWN - A lower age group, hot and humid climate and low population density, are likely the contributing factors on why Africa has experienced fewer Covid-19 cases.

Nearly all regions of the world saw new cases rise last week, said WHO, with Europe and the Americas seeing new cases swell by 11 percent and 10 percent respectively.

Only Africa, which has remained relatively unscathed by the pandemic, dodged the upward trend, reporting a 12 percent drop in fresh cases from a week earlier.

About 91 percent of Covid-19 infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among people below 60 years, and over 80 percent of cases are asymptomatic.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said Africa has not witnessed an exponential spread of Covid-19 as many initially feared,but Moeti cautioned that the slower spread of infection in the region means we expect the pandemic to continue to smoulder for some time, with occasional flare-ups.

“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.

“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,” said Moeti.

Some of the most-affected countries including Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa have all seen infections drop every week over the past two months. Deaths attributed to Covid-19 have also remained low in the region.

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.

The WHO say the region’s statistics on testing have been useful for policy as they reflect the patterns of infection within a country, and the missed Covid-19 cases are largely because they are asymptomatic. In addition, there is no evidence of miscalculation of death figures, which are more difficult to miss statistically.

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