African Continent COVID-19 and the Impending Deadly Catastrophe
In the face of a potentially catastrophic COVID-19 death toll occurring across Africa, some African governments are looking at several scenarios to possibly reverse the potential risks and combat the unique challenges facing the African continent.
It is a real possibility that COVID-19 could claim up to three million lives across Africa! This is a realistic prediction, under one hypothetical scenario, if African governments fail to stop COVID-19 from spreading across the continent.
Researchers at Imperial College London are using computer models to estimate the potential impact of the virus and the resulting severe respiratory illness associated with COVID-19. The goal of there project is to predict what will happen if COVID-19 spreads and how lives will be saved by measures established or followed to mitigate the virus.
At a virtual press conference, Dr. John Nkengasong, from Imperial College of London, is the person in charge of Africa’s response to the COVID-19. Nkengasong stated that “The worst-case scenario is where nothing is done and the continent of 1.3 billion is infected, But something is being done according to some observers but is it enough?
Almost all African states have shuttered their borders and established social distancing measures, closed educational institutions, banned mass gatherings all in hopes of slowing the transmission of the COVID-19. As of April 19, the African CDC reported that thirty-four countries across Africa have gone further and established night-time curfews or partial lockdowns, while twenty-one have implemented national lockdowns restricting nonessential movement across the whole country. Eleven have established rules requiring people to wear face masks in public.
Lockdowns have come at a hefty price, with a high proportion of citizens dependent on a subsistence income, and governments are finding this a challenge. Cases of police brutality are occurring as they enforce local or national measures and, some global aid agencies have warned that the steps are pushing many of the at-risk populations into severe hunger scenarios.
The African CDC reports that confirmed COVID-19 infections have been found in 52 of the 54 African countries by mid-April. In most of those cases, COVID-19 is being transmitted person to person in specific countries. Six of those countries have reached a status in which COVID-19 is starting to spread widely, specifically; Algeria, Senegal, South Africa, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Libya, and Uganda.
Even in these countries, the number of known cases remains a small number in comparison to outbreaks elsewhere around the continent. With the COVID-19 Africa pandemic at an early stage, much remains uncertain about exactly how grave a threat is.
“There are many parameters on the continent that will play into how to sever the outbreak will be,” Nkengasong provided the following details. “For example, the youth population in Africa is approximately 70%, and generally, they are younger the 30 years.” “Additionally, we have a high burden of endemic diseases: tuberculosis, malaria, HIV, and other underlying situations like malnutrition, and we just don’t understand how this will factor into it COVID-19 in Africa.”
Weak or non-existent healthcare programs
One thing that is certain in Africa is healthcare budgets, numbers of doctors and hospital beds across the continent pale in comparison to those in the rest of the world, including in most countries whose healthcare systems have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients seeking care. Also, with large rural populations and almost no health system infrastructure at all, reaching patients in high-risk rural areas will be difficult.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the same University WHO Director-General Tedros attended, have also run models of possible scenarios associated with COVID-19. Under some scenarios, the University found that “sheltering-in-place” of the elderly population can yield some significant results in reducing deaths in some of the African countries. As is well know, many households across Africa are made up of multiple generations. One suggestion is “neighborhood-level house swaps,” a practice where high-risk groups would be isolated together in what they called “safe-zones” for an extended period until the curve flattens.
Test and Contact Tracing
With no vaccine in sight for who knows how long, governments across the globe are focused on flattening the curve and stalling the spread of COVID-19 to avoid impacting hospitals. Given the already diminished capacity of the African healthcare systems, a need to stop the spread of COVID-19 may be an even more pressing issue for Africa. However, this, too, requires resources not only to cover the economic cost of the outbreak but also to carry out testing and tracing so that infected people can be identified and quarantined.
“I am very concerned about the capabilities of countries in Africa to deal with this outbreak,” a virologist from Reading University stated. Despite the continent’s success in containing Ebola, a lack of testing capacity would make it challenging to identify and quarantine people carrying COVID-19.
There are positive sides to this story. We know that in parts of Africa, which have endured Ebola outbreaks, testing and contact tracing was done and managed to contain those outbreaks, So there is a precedent which did not exist anywhere else in the world.”
But, while the symptoms associated with Ebola are severe and obvious, many people could be carrying COVID-19 in Africa and shedding the diseases without even knowing it. This is opening up the reality of large-scale asymptomatic transmission. By losing track of infected people, you are completely behind the curve because either you have to let the infection spread through the population, or you have to quarantine everyone.
So the importance of testing is critical to success, according to the African CDC. The center aims to distribute materials for approximately one million tests across the continent in the coming weeks. But to reach its ultimate goal, nearly 20 million more will be required in the coming months. Aware that its member states are competing with the world for the same resources, the African Union has set up a joint procurement system to allow member countries to increase their combined purchasing strength.
Recognizing a shortage of labor to carry out the time-consuming work of tracking the disease and tracing positive test contacts, the African CDC is also advocating the use of community members to assist healthcare workers. This approach has already been rolled out in Cameroon, and the African CDC hopes to recruit one million “community workers” across Africa.
Treatment of COVID-19
Whichever measure is effective, the goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 across Africa, large numbers of people will likely become infected, and others will die. But moreover, others will require supportive care and treatment. Along with the rest of the world, the African CDC continues to monitor the results of trials of antiviral medicines for possible treatment and or vaccine solutions.
The final note is that in Africa due to financial, geopolitical, and generally poor living conditions, We are playing catch-up, and that is a very tough thing to do in the face of the looming COVID-19 Global Pandemic. By letting Africa fail at addressing COVID-19 on the continent, the world is playing Russian roulette, and the bullet is re-emergence of COVID-19 anywhere in the world Africans can travel.