As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, experts are wondering why Africa is relatively unscathed by the outbreak.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 spread, experts were worried about how Africa would grapple with the disease.
“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for Covid-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, leader of the World Health Organization, said in February.
However, the worry transformed into confusion since so far there have been nine confirmed diagnoses on a continent housing more than 1 billion people. To date, there are three reported cases in Algeria, two in Egypt, two in Senegal, one in Nigeria and one in Gambia. Almost all the infections were attributed to people who traveled to Africa from another continent. Two of the cases in Algeria, a mother and daughter, contracted Covid-19 after they hosted visitors from France.
Two experts told France 24 they aren’t sure why Africa isn’t being hit hard by a virus that has infected more than 87,000 people and killed more than 3,000 people in over 60 countries. However, Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Centers for Disease Control in Africa, told CNN there might be issues with detection and traffic to Africa slowed due to the Chinese New Year.
“There is still the possibility that we have cases and they are not being detected. Time will tell as we expand diagnostics. Remember when this outbreak started, we had the Chinese New Year festival going on and many of the Chinese were in China — so their movement was not coming into Africa,” he explained.
Despite the low infection rates, Africa isn’t out of the woods yet and officials must stay vigilant.
“It is dangerous for several reasons. Our health systems are not strong enough to provide those respiratory support systems that are required to care for patients that are infected, as we have seen in China,” Nkengasong said.
“There are very few countries in Africa with those systems in place in their hospitals to care for a large number of patients. They may be able to care for some patients, but not for a large number of patients if they are overwhelmed, like we are seeing in China.”
The obsession over the Covid-19 virus’ low impact on Africa aroused suspicion on social media.
“The 3 confirmed case of Coronavirus in Africa (Nigeria, Algeria & Egypt) weren’t black people. Experts are “puzzled” and “worried” about why Africans aren’t being affected by the virus. Ain’t that a b—h?” tweeted one person.
“Africa is suffering from Ebola, HIV, Malaria…so many people have died and still die. We suffered from European slavery, European colonialism. European wars,” observed another skeptic. “For them (Europeans), that is not enough. They wish we should be dying from Corona virus. Are these people humans?”
“They aren’t happy Africa is largely corona virus free? Trust me, we have a lot more diseases to worry about,” said another critic.
“They have a Racist mentality of portraying AFRIKA as a disease infested continent, That’s why they are so desperately trying to see/find CORONA VIRUS in africa, they can’t stomach an Africa free from their virus,” argued another user.
Regardless, Nkengasong believes protecting Africa is imperative and has a few recommendations for how to do just that.
“We have to. We don’t have a choice, we have to scale our ability to train many people on infection prevention and control, to enhance the screening at our points of entry as quickly as possible to cascade the diagnostics into the country so that our strategy continues to be rapid detection and rapid containment,” he said.
“There is no way our health systems will be rapidly improved to be able to cope with a large outbreak, like we are seeing in China.”