Social and environmental factors behind low number of COVID-19 cases in Africa – South Africa

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Brazzaville, September 24, 2020 – The transmission of COVID-19 in Africa has been marked by a relatively small number of infections, which have declined over the past two months, due to a variety of socio-ecological factors as well as early public health measures and strong holdings by governments across the Region.

The pandemic has largely affected a younger age group and has been more pronounced in a few countries, suggesting that aspects specific to each country are behind the pattern of morbidity and mortality. About 91% of COVID-19 infections in sub-Saharan Africa are in people under the age of 60, and more than 80% of cases are asymptomatic.

A mixture of socio-ecological factors such as low population density and mobility, hot and humid climate, lower age group, interacting to accentuate their individual effects, probably contribute to the pattern observed in Africa.

Since July 20, the region has seen a steady decline in new cases of COVID-19. In the past four weeks, 77,147 new cases have been reported, compared to 131,647 recorded in the previous four weeks.

Some of the worst affected countries, including Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, have all seen the infections decrease every week for the past two months. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 also remained low in the region.

“The downward trend we have seen in Africa over the past two months is undoubtedly a positive development and a testament to the robust and decisive public health measures taken by governments in the region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti , regional manager of the World Health Organization (WHO). Africa Director. “But we must not become complacent. Other parts of the world have seen similar trends only to find that as social and public health measures are relaxed, cases start to rise again. “

As governments have made efforts to improve COVID-19 testing, recent tests have dropped from a total of 74 tests per 10,000 people in 44 countries assessed on August 23, 2020 to 93 per 10,000 people on September 21, 2020, the level is still low.

Nonetheless, the region’s testing statistics have been useful for policy as they reflect infection patterns in a country, and missed COVID-19 cases are largely because they are asymptomatic. In addition, there is no evidence of miscalculation of the death figures, which are more difficult to ignore statistically.

“Africa has not experienced an exponential spread of COVID-19 as many initially feared,” said Dr Moeti. “But the slower spread of infection in the region means we expect the pandemic to continue to smolder for some time, with occasional flare-ups.”

In recent weeks, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, which are among the countries that have recorded a drop in infections since mid-July, have seen a slight increase in cases. It is crucial that countries maintain public health measures that have helped curb the spread of COVID-19 in order to limit new infections and deaths.

“The response in African countries needs to be tailored to each country’s situation in the future, as we see different patterns of infection even within a country. Targeted and localized responses based on what works best in a given region of a country will be crucial as countries ease restrictions and open up their economies. Comprehensive regional or country approaches are not feasible, ”said Dr Moeti.

WHO continues to support countries to scale up the public health response, especially in high-risk areas.

Dr Moeti spoke at a virtual press conference hosted today by APO Group. She was joined by Professor Francisca Mutapi, Professor of Global Health, Infection and Immunity, University of Edinburgh; Professor Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh; and Dr Sam Agatre Okuonzi, Arua Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda.

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Please click on the link below to access the statements, audio files and sound clips as they become available: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1WHVRFPJPMlufiMdjVVfMVeEUCXAbnyvy?usp=sharing

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Collins Boakye-Agyemang
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