Covid-19 in Africa: a false calm according to the WHO

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The African continent, so far spared by the pandemic, is holding its breath. The number of cases is increasing, and the WHO calls on States to maintain the restrictions despite a relaxation in the various societies of the continent.

According to the last report of June 23 from the African office of the WHO, the continent counts 236,909 proven cases of the disease as well as 5,257 deaths – slightly less than the total number of cases recorded in Italy and a lower number of deaths to that of Sweden. Despite this extremely positive assessment for this continent made up of more than 1 billion inhabitants, the WHO calls on the 47 countries it observes to continue their efforts.

“The Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve in the African region with a rapid increase in new cases and deaths albeit disproportionately between countries, analyzes the international organization. Multiple governments are gradually easing containment restrictions including the reopening of shops and schools. However, the restrictions on crossing borders and airport operations are continuing their effects. Countries must continue to implement public health policies to slow this rapid increase in the number of cases. “

The pandemic is gaining momentum very markedly in some countries. “Since the report of June 17, 51,839 new cases have been observed – an increase of 28% – in 44 countries, analyzes the international organization. Of these 51,839 new regional cases more than half – 57% – or 29 774 have been registered in South Africa. ” It is also growing rapidly in Namibia (+ 112%, from 34 to 72 cases), Mauritania (+ 65%, from 1,887 to 3,121 cases), Benin (+ 60%, from 532 to 850 cases), Botswana (+ 48%, from 60 to 89 cases) and Malawi (+ 42%, from 564 to 803 cases). The countries most affected by the pandemic are: South Africa (106,108 cases for 2,102 deaths), Nigeria (21,371 cases for 533 deaths), Ghana (14,568 cases for 95 deaths), Algeria (12 076 cases for 861 deaths), Cameroon (12,041 cases for 308 deaths).

WHO notes in some countries a mortality rate well above the average (2.6% on the African continent). This is particularly the case in Chad – which is in the process of installing its mortality surveillance – (8.6%), Algeria (7.1%), Niger (6.4%), Burkina Faso (5.9 %), and Mali (5.6%). Figures above the world average of 5%.

How to explain that Africa is so little affected? Many hypotheses are exchanged around this mystery. “There is certainly a weakness in testing, which has also been observed in countries with much more resources. But today we have enough experience to link the low number of cases to other factors: youth of the population [Editor’s note: the median age in 2012 on the continent was 20 years], low urbanization, less intra- and inter-urban mixing, greater precocity in taking protective measures… I am affirmative on this point “, assures Dr Moumouni Kind of, director of operations of the non-governmental organization ALIMA, stationed in Senegal on Jejune Afrique. To this is sometimes added an absence of fear for lack of cases around oneself and therefore a recourse to avoided or late care, according to Le Monde, or the fear of being discriminated against in Libya according to RFI.

Are there hidden deaths? The director of operations of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and global coordinator on the Covid-19 was also asked. “We carried out an investigation in Kano, a city in the north of Nigeria where suspicious deaths had been passed on to us, says Isabelle Defourny. But we were not able to work on the causes of death a posteriori and, if we observed in addition to burials in the cemeteries of the city, it is necessary to take into account the fact that, during the epidemic, the bodies were no longer repatriated towards the villages “, she specifies to Le Monde. Due to lack of visibility, it excludes Le Monde from “missing out on a real increase in deaths”. For the director of the Pasteur Institute in Cameroon Elisabeth Carniel, the environment in Africa cannot be compared to temperate countries: “we are on patterns of virus progression very different from those experienced by Europe or the States Despite a number of cases that is increasing faster than in previous months, our curves are nothing like those of other continents, “she said to Le Monde.

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