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Coronavirus: WHO warns of 190,000 deaths in Africa

By Nicholas Norbrook
Posted on Friday, 8 May 2020 08:40

Virus Outbreak South Africa
A medical staff member takes the temperature of a metro police officer during a mass screening and testing campaign for COVID-19 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, May 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

World health body also warns that the coronavirus pandemic could 'smoulder' in Africa for several years

The World Health Organisation (WHO) published a new study looking at the impact of Covid-19 should containment measures on the continent fail.

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Should the various lockdowns currently being eased in many African countries fail to ‘bend the curve’, between 29m – 44m Africans risk being infected, with deaths potentially reaching 190,000.

The WHO believe that transmissions will likely be slower — because of Africa’s age pyramid, and social and environmental factors — the pandemic risks lasting for far longer.

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“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 Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. “COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region. We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.”

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African healthcare systems would likely be overwhelmed by such a wave, say the WHO:

  • an estimated 3.6 million–5.5 million COVID-19 hospitalisations,
  • of which 82 000–167 000 would be severe cases requiring oxygen,
  • with 52 000–107 000 would be critical cases requiring breathing support.

The body is asking for more focus on containment. “Curbing a largescale outbreak is far costlier than the ongoing preventive measures governments are undertaking to contain the spread of the virus”, says Dr Moeti.

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The virus has spread quickly on the continent over the last week, with infections topping 54,000 by 8 May according to latest figures from the Africa CDC.

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