Many African countries have been praised for waging an effective campaign to combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) despite their reputation for having fragile state health systems.
The continent, which has a population of more than one billion, has had about 1.5 million cases, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University. These figures are far lower than those in Europe, Asia or the Americas, with reported cases continuing to decline.
Africa has recorded about 37,000 deaths, compared with roughly 580,000 in the Americas, 230,000 in Europe, and 205,000 in Asia.
“The case-fatality ratio (CFR) for COVID-19 in Africa is lower than the global CFR, suggesting the outcomes have been less severe among African populations,” noted a recent continental study by Partnership for Evidence-based Response to Covid-19 (PERC), which brings together a number of private and public organisations.
Low testing rates continue to undermine the continental response, however, there is no indication that a large number of COVID-19 deaths have been missed, said Dr John Nkengasong, the head of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
The first case on the continent was confirmed in Egypt on February 14. 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.
In a survey conducted in 18 countries in August by PERC, public support for safety measures was high – 85 per cent of respondents said they wore masks in the previous week.
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, while Africa is home to the world’s youngest population with a median age of 19 years, according to United Nations (UN) data.
African countries away from the tropics have been worse off.
Several West African states – which battled the world’s worst ever outbreak of Ebola from 2013-16 – had also mastered the public health measures that have been used to prevent COVID-19, including isolating the infected, tracing their contacts and then getting them quarantined while they get tested. -BBC