African continent accounts for only 1.2% of Covid-19 cases. This is explained in particular by its low integration into international networks and by the youth of its population. Wasn’t Afro-Alarmism Excessive? Were not the catastrophic scenarios speculating on the destabilizing effect of Covid-19 in Africa a bit hasty?
More than eleven weeks after its appearance on the continent – February 14 in Egypt – the health earthquake so feared by many officials has not, to date, not occurred. While Africa concentrates 17% of the world population, it recorded Thursday, May 7, 51,884 cases (approx. 1.2% of the world total) and 2010 dead (0.7%), according to the daily bulletin disseminated by the organization, African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), in Addis Ababa.
The black continent is doing much better in resisting COVID-19 than Europe or the United States.
Would we have sinned by an excess of catastrophism? From a pure statistical point of view, Africa inflicts a scathing contradiction to predictions like that made in a report by the Economic Commission of the African Union (AU), mid-April, anticipating 300,000 deaths even if the continent adopted maximum precautionary measures. We are very far from that.
“We appreciate the fact that to date the hecatomb has not occurred,” notes Yap Boum, an epidemiologist in Yaoundé and regional representative of Epicenter, the research and epidemiology branch of Médecins sans frontières (MSF) writes lemonde.
“For the moment, we are pleasantly surprised and a little reassured to see how the epidemic is evolving,” says Elisabeth Carniel, director of the Center Pasteur du Cameroun. Africa does not know, in any case, for the moment, the explosion which had been predicted on the basis of models in force in Europe.
Is it merely that the disease arrived later on the continent and that, as envisaged by a South African study which announces a peak for September, the worst is yet to come? At the moment, in any case, the spread of the virus seems remarkably slow on the continent. The reasons given that may explain it.
1) The climate
This is the most common explanation. Like the flu, coronavirus is a disease that thrives in the cold season and cannot tolerate heat, drought, or even intense exposure to the sun.
The hypothesis seems to be corroborated by the fact that the countries most affected by the pandemic have a rather temperate climate and that most of the cases are concentrated either in the far north of the continent or in the far south, where the heat and drought are less overwhelming.
Researchers remain very cautious, however, like the director of international affairs at the Pasteur Institute, Pierre-Marie Girard, who points out that during in vitro experiments, it was found that the coronavirus “multiplies very well in heat”.
2) A higher population of youth
Doctors confirm that the majority of severe cases of Covid-19 involve people over 60, which would be a chance for the African continent, where the median age is 19.4 years and where 60% of the population is less than 25 years old. One of the hardest-hit countries, Italy, has 23.1% of those aged 65 and over, compared to 5% in Africa.
This hypothesis is practically unanimous, but scientists qualify it by recalling that if the African population is young, it is, unfortunately, more victim than others of diseases like HIV or malnutrition, which can make them vulnerable.
3) More limited travel
Another rational explanation that is difficult to get around: the African population moves less, on average than that of many advanced countries, and the risks of contamination are therefore necessarily less.
For the record, there is only one African airport in the list of the 50 world sites concentrating the most air traffic: that of Johannesburg.
4) Experience with epidemics
Africa is not at its first epidemic, and it has known many more deadly ones like Ebola. The nursing staff but also the populations, therefore, have a specific habit of health crises, lessons have been learned, and “good practices” put in place.
Specific methods of detection, isolation of patients, precautions during care developed previously can be duplicated against the coronavirus. The authorities also took the measure of the danger faster than others and set up border control or closing, distancing, or confinement very early on.
The evolution of the coronavirus on the African continent remains, of course, to watch. According to France media Le Monde, the contamination curve reports an increase in cases of around 40% per week. The concern dulls nevertheless. The dynamic remains on the rise. The distribution by region highlights the particular exposure of North Africa.