by Jean Damescène Hakuzimana
While the COVID19 outbreak was ravaging superpower countries, among them the United States, France, Italy, China, and Spain, the African continent, infamous for outbreaks of epidemics like Ebola, initially registered few cases. Recently, however, the continent has started seeing an increase in positive cases.
On June 11, Africa reported 150,102 total cases with 4,815 cases within just 24 hours of the reporting date. Also on July 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) counted 3,593 deaths, with 100 deaths occurring within 24 hours of reporting. South Africa and Nigeria topped the list with 55, 421 and 13, 873 cases, respectively. COVID-19 was first detected in Africa in mid-February.
Source: WHO Situation report 143 of June 11, 2020
The African Report, an affiliate of Jeune Afrique Magazine, along with many other publications, has postulated a number of theories to try to explain the initial slow spread of COVID-19 on the African continent. To begin with, most countries in Africa implemented draconian protective measures right away, with East African countries like Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya completely closing their borders and adopting other preventive measures early in the disease’s spread.
Also, the continent’s citizens don’t generally travel overseas a great deal, which reduced contact with global hotspots. Of the positive cases in Rwanda, a considerable number are connected to people traveling from Asian or Western countries, who entered Rwanda before it shut down its air and land borders.
Additionally, the continent boasts a vibrant textile industry, which produces cloth masks, and a health care system that is accustomed to mass outbreaks such as Ebola. The African Report has suggested that the tropical and equatorial climate of most African countries might suppress the spread of the virus. However, researcher Pierre-Marie Girard, Vice President of International Affairs at the Pasteur Institute, along with many other scientists, observed that coronavirus “multiplies without problem in the heat,” discrediting the theory.
Even without COVID-19, Africa struggles against disease, and articles have been trending that question the preparedness of Africa in relation to ICU beds and the like. Many countries have fewer than five ventilators for the entire population. The New York Times reported in April that, “South Sudan, a nation of 11 million, has more vice presidents (five) than ventilators (four).”
The growing insistence on the part of many in the United States to open the economy is very different than in Africa, where citizens are less used to pressuring their leaders, and more accustomed to following orders. In the case of COVID-19, this may help African leaders keep their economies shut, and win the battle against the virus with fewer casualties. Some leaders, however, such as in Tanzania and Burundi, have been under fire for keeping case numbers secret, and for implementing inadequate protective measures.