What's Covid-19's true picture in Africa?

APA-Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)

For sometime figures about the coronavirus pandemic in Africa had planted seeds of doubt on the minds of health experts but a new study by the World Health Organisation suggesting that Covid cases are grossly under-reported appears to be vindicating this misgiving.

From Zambia in Southern Africa to Nigeria in West Africa and Ethiopia in the east, countries on the continent had always struggled to paint an accurate picture of COVID-19.

A country like Tanzania had been repeatedly called out for allegedly not providing an accurate tally of the extent of Covid infections, leaving many health watchers wary that an unhealthy dose of African cynicism was hampering the continent from getting a reliable picture of the state of the virus being contracted by Africans.

The WHO study released on April 7 says only a fraction of the true extent of Covid's penetration in Africa was being confirmed.

The rest was a matter for conjecture and second guessing.

Even the WHO has not been insulated from it, leaving its study estimating over two-thirds of Africans had contracted COVID-19 since February 2020 when the pandemic caught up with Africa.

The WHO's Africa director Matshidisco Moeti could not have summed it up better when she said although new infections and deaths related to the coronavirus continue their downward slide across the continent, "fresh analysis... reveals that available data is   likely only scratching the surface of the real extent of coronavirus infections in Africa”.

The continent has 97 times more cases than the official figures suggest, according to the WHO's study which also put the global Covid infection average at 16 times higher than the number of cases confirmed worldwide.

According to Moeti blood sample reviews have found that a 4.5 percent undercounting of cases around the world last September.

“It is, however, difficult to compare figures for Africa with those  of other  regions, as many of the studies conducted cover different time  periods  and the testing strategies varied greatly across regions,” Moeti said.

The study used 151 previous studies in Africa, studying blood samples with a view to determining the proportion of Africans infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Using this formula, the study found that infections had risen by 3 percent in June 2020 to 65 percent in September 2021, a time when the beta and delta variants were emerging.

Moeti said the answer to this latest documented increase is more tests, contact tracing and monitoring across the continent given that at 67 percent Africa has a higher proportion of asymptomatic cases than elsewhere in the world.

Out of the continent's 1.3 billion people by the end of April more than 100 million tests had been conducted with South Africa leading this league by having 24.3 million tested.

Nigeria with over 200 million people conducted tests just shy of 5.5 million, according to Africa CDC.

According to data made available by the centres, the number of people living with the coronavirus on the continent has surpassed 11.5 million with close to 260, 000 fatalities registered.


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