190 000 Africans Could Die If COVID-19 Outbreak Is Not Controlled; It Is ‘Ever More Crucial’ To Promote Effective Containment Measures Now
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa at regular press conference

Up to 190 000 Africans could die of COVID-19 within the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail. And up to 44 million Africans, or 26% of the African population, could be infected by the virus, according to a new modelling study  by the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa. A proactive approach needs to be taken now, or health systems will not be able to cope with an outbreak that could last for years, said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti at a press briefing on Thursday.

The number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care due to COVID-19 will “severely strain” the health capacities of countries, she added. The study predicts 3.6 million to 5.5 million COVID-19 hospitalizations, of which 82 000–167 000 would be severe cases requiring oxygen treatment, and 52 000–107 000 would be critical cases requiring more advanced breathing support.

African countries have a ‘woefully inadequate’ intensive care bed capacity – about 13 times lower than in Europe, she added. In Africa, there is, on average, nine intensive care unit beds per one million people, based on self-reports by 47 countries to the WHO. In contrast, European countries have on average 11.5 critical care beds per 100 000 people.

Africa – The Continent With The Lowest Hospital Bed Capacity In The World

Although the modelling study anticipates a slower pace of virus transmission in Africa, as compared to other parts of the world, taking proactive and preventative measures now will be cheaper than dealing with the aftershocks of an outbreak that could last ‘a few years’, said Moeti: 

“While COVID-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa, as it has elsewhere in the world; it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots,” said Dr Moeti. “The importance of promoting effective containment measures is ever more crucial, as sustained and widespread transmission of the virus could severely overwhelm our health systems.”

“Curbing a large-scale outbreak is far costlier than the ongoing preventive measures governments are undertaking to contain the spread of the virus.”

The research, which is based on prediction modelling, looked at 47 countries in the WHO African Region with a total population of one billion people. The predictive model was adjusted for differences between countries in disease severity and transmission, taking into account those country-specific variables.

In a related move, the United Nations launched a global funding appeal for humaitarian aid to protect millions of people and stem the spread of the coronavirus in fragile countries.


Image Credits: Our World In Data, OECD, Eurostat, World Bank, National Government Records .

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