COVID-19: How Africa Has Been Able To Manage The Pandemic

COVID-19: How Africa Has Been Able To Manage The Pandemic

Early in the year, a global phenomenon known as the Coronavirus, also known as “COVID-19” began to make the rounds and before anyone could say “Jack Robinson”, everyone was on lock-down and face-masks became the “new normal”.

The emergence of COVID-19 birthed a lot of conspiracy theories, rumors and was a serious cause for global concern. It was even suggested by many that Armageddon was upon the human race and COVID-19 was the means through which we would all be wiped out.

These theories might sound silly now but in the thick of the outbreak, one could not help giving it some thought. The numbers of cases of the infection and subsequent resulting deaths, globally, was so high it was compared with the Spanish Flu of ages ago.

The United States of America, most European countries, and most South American countries were about the most heavily hit, with numbers of cases going up to hundreds of thousands and even millions, leaving a death toll of Jupiter proportion in its wake.

It had been forecast by the World Health Organization that Africa would end up being the worst hit region, due to largely and predominantly substandard healthcare infrastructure. This theory seemed plausible initially for reasons already given, however, Africa has somehow managed to tackle the pandemic relatively well.

With the odds (in terms of proper healthcare systems) being anywhere but in the favor of Africa successfully handling COVID-19, it has somehow been miraculously pulled off and briefly, we’ll examine how

1: CLIMATIC CONDITIONS

A lot of “enlightened” people didn’t think this was a wise assertion initially but let’s face it, it has proved itself to be true.

A study conducted by researchers in the University of Maryland in the US found a correlation between temperature, humidity and latitude, and the spread of Covid-19.

“We looked at the early spread [of the virus] in 50 cities around the world. The virus had an easier time spreading in lower temperatures and humidity,” said Mohammad Sajadi, the lead researcher.

“Not that it doesn’t spread in other conditions – it just spreads better when temperature and humidity drop.”

African countries away from the tropics have been worse off.

The spread of the virus accelerated in South Africa as the southern hemisphere went into winter.

But as it became warmer, the number of cases dropped significantly, impacting the continental outlook, as South Africa accounts for almost half the total number of cases and deaths on the continent.

2: IMMEDIATE RESPONSE

The first case on the continent was confirmed in Egypt on 14 February. There were fears that the new virus could quickly overwhelm largely fragile health systems on the continent.

So, right from the beginning, most African governments took drastic measures to try and slow the spread of the virus.

Public health measures – including avoiding handshakes, frequent hand-washing, social distancing and wearing of face masks – were swiftly introduced.

Some countries – like Lesotho – acted even before a single case was reported.

It declared an emergency and closed schools on 18 March, and went into a three-week lockdown about 10 days later in unison with many other southern Africa states.

But only days after the lock-down was lifted – in early May – did Lesotho find its first confirmed cases. In a population of more than 2 million, it has so far recorded about 1,700 cases and 40 deaths.

3: PUBLIC COOPERATION

In a survey conducted in 18 countries in August by PERC, public support for safety measures was high – 85% of respondents said they wore masks in the previous week.

“With strict public health and social measures implemented, African Union member states were able to contain the virus between March and May,” the report said.

It added that “minor loosening [of restrictions] in June and July coincided with an increase in the reported cases across the continent”.

Since then, there has been a notable drop in the number of confirmed cases and deaths in about half of the continent, possibly linked to the end of the southern hemisphere winter (see below).

The implementation of the restrictions came at a huge cost. Livelihoods were lost on a large scale. South Africa – which had one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world – lost 2.2 million jobs during the first half of the year.

More and more countries have been forced to re-open their economies even though the number of cases is much higher than when they ordered the shutdowns.

According to the PERC report, public opinion about re-opening the economy was mixed – six in 10 respondents said economies needed to re-open, and believed that the risk of getting Covid-19 was minimal if social distancing rules were followed.

However, seven in 10 said that thinking about resuming normal activities made them feel anxious.

“The data suggests that people across the AU see Covid-19 as a serious threat, but for many, the economic and social burdens outweigh their personal risk perception of catching the virus,” concluded the report.

4: PREDOMINANTLY YOUNG POPULATION

The age of the population in most African countries is also likely to have played a role in containing the spread of Covid-19.

Globally, most of those who have died have been aged over 80, whileAfrica is home to the world’s youngest population with a median age of 19 years, according to UN data.

“The pandemic has largely been in younger age groups… about 91% of Covid-19 infection in sub-Saharan Africa are among people below 60 years and over 80% are asymptomatic,” said the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We have [in Africa] about 3% of the population aged over 65 years,” sad Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Africa head.

In comparison, Europe, North America and wealthier Asian countries have the oldest inhabitants.

“One of the big drivers in Western countries is that the elderly people were living in specialized homes and these became places where the transmission was very intense,” Dr Moeti added.

These homes are rare in most African countries, where older people are more likely to be living in rural areas.

It is the norm in many African countries for people to return to their rural homes when they retire from employment in urban areas.

The population density in rural areas is lower and therefore maintaining social distance much easier.

Furthermore, an underdeveloped transport system within and between countries appears to have been a blessing in disguise. It means that Africans do not travel as much as people do in more developed economies, minimising contact.

By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi 

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web media content creator and developer with over three years of experience in web content management and several more years of research and writing. He has written quite a number of essays on and offline, developed and edited law reports, as well as he has written for and managed a handful of blogs. He currently works as a freelance content Developer for web and digital clients. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.

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