Coronavirus: Age and climate seen as behind Africa's low cases

Elias Hubbard
September 28, 2020

Moeti said that a host of socio-ecological factors like a huge youthful population, low mobility alongside hot and humid climate, could have contributed to limited COVID-19 infections and deaths in the continent.

"Around 91 percent of the infections in sub-Saharan Africa concerned people less than 60 years old, and over 80 percent of these cases were asymptomatic", it said.

World Health Organization said some of the worst-hit African countries such as Algeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa had seen infections steadily fall in the past two months. Over the past four weeks, 77 147 new cases were reported, down from 131 647 recorded in the previous four weeks.

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 August 23, 2020 to 93 per 10 000 people on September 21, 2020, the level is still low.

The WHO is urging African countries to maintain public health measures and warns against complacency, with Ivory Coast and Cameroon bucking the trend by seeing a slight increase in cases. In addition, there is no evidence of miscalculation of death figures, which are more hard to miss statistically.

The continental disease control and prevention agency said in a statement that the death toll due to illnesses related to COVID-19 in Africa has reached 35,144 as of Saturday afternoon.

According to Moeti, the fact that health facilities across the continent have not been overwhelmed by large numbers of people with infections is also indicative of most infections on the continent being asymptomatic.

"The slower spread of infection in the region means we expect the pandemic to continue to smolder for some time, with occasional flare-ups", said Dr. Moeti. The reasons are still something of a mystery - more research is needed, and some studies that aim to answer the questions are only just beginning - but scientists said the success of many African countries so far offers crucial lessons for the rest of the world and shine a light on how inherent biases can distort scientific research.

According to her office in Brazzaville, Africa has so far recorded 34,706 deaths from 1,439,657 cases - far below the other continents whose figures are in multiple millions.

The US - the world's worst affected country - has had almost seven million cases and over 200,000 deaths.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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