Several months into the global coronavirus pandemic, Africa remains the least-affected continent in the world, said the head of the World Health Organization on Monday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, noted that the continent had just 1.5 percent of the world’s reported cases and just 0.1 percent of its deaths.
He noted that the low numbers could be in part due to lower testing capacity in Africa — though 51 countries there now can test compared to just 40 some 10 weeks earlier — and many cases may have been missed.
“But even so, Africa appears to have so far been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions,” he said, adding that some countries’ experience fighting diseases like polio, measles, Ebola and yellow fever may have helped.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been dire predictions that Africa, with crowded cities and often poor health infrastructure, would be hard hit by the disease, but that does not yet seem to have materialized.
While many cases maybe going undetected, the continent has not seen a huge increase in unexplained deaths, suggesting that even if people are getting covid-19, it is not as fatal as in Europe and the United States.
Africa’s lesser exposure to world travel and trade could also be insulating it for now from the spread of the disease and it has been pointed out that other infectious pandemics eventually spread through the continent, just a year later than in Europe and Asia.
The various efforts to combat the disease across Africa, including travel bans and lockdowns, however, have endangered food supply chains and disrupted essential health services, including vaccination campaigns for other diseases, warned Tedros.