The African continent continues to have some of the lowest COVID19 figures in the world. In a population of 1.2 billion, there are 7,400 deaths (June 20th). Most of the deaths come from just 10 countries with South Africa accounting for the highest proportion of the deaths. The WHO continues to project huge increases in the number of COVID19 cases and mortalities.
On June 11th, the BBC reported that the corona virus pandemic is accelerating in Africa. “The WHO’s Africa Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti, said it was spreading beyond capital cities and that a lack of tests and other supplies was hampering responses.” But more importantly she said, “ it did not seem as if severe cases and deaths were being missed by authorities.” The article continues “South Africa had more than a quarter of the reported cases and was seeing high numbers of confirmed cases and deaths in Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces, Dr Moeti told a briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva. She added that Western Cape was looking similar to recent outbreaks in Europe and the US.”
After three months of severe lockdown in South Africa, there have been 1,800 deaths from COVID19 in a population of 60 million, or 29 deaths for every million people. The comparison with Europe and the US does not seem to be supported by the numbers.
The BBC continued, “South Africa’s government has been praised for its early and decisive imposition of a lockdown but the easing of restrictions in June has been accompanied by a rise in infections.”
“Even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3% of the global total, it is clear that the pandemic is accelerating… and cases were likely to continue increasing for the foreseeable future.”
“Until such time as we have access to an effective vaccine, I’m afraid we’ll probably have to live with a steady increase in the region….”
A subsequent article in the UK Guardian on June 19th, was titled African governments drop COVID19 curbs in effort to limit economic harm, despite the rapid rise in the numbers of cases across the continent. The article quotes: “The WHO has previously said the COVID19 pandemic could smoulder in Africa for several years, after killing as many as 190,000 people in the coming 12 months,” but recognized that the extended lockdown was doing massive harm to the socio-economic wellbeing of many countries. “South Africa, one of the most industrialised economies in Africa, will take six years to recover from the lockdown and ongoing restrictions, according to some estimates.” . “We should not mask the challenge we still have with testing,” Dr John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, said on Thursday. “We have to scale this up aggressively so we can get ahead of the pandemic.” The article finishes by quoting South Africa’s President Ramaphosa, admitting that the damage and violence due to the lockdown has been terrible.
It seems even the WHO is beginning to recognize the damage being done due to lockdown. However, the articles are still focusing on the basic increase in the numbers of cases, which as we have seen doesn’t necessarily connect to the numbers of deaths. It may just reflect an increase in the amount of testing being done, which, as in many countries has been used to justify the need for stringent lockdown measures. All epidemiological and medical data has shown that deaths due to COVID19 are still predominantly in the elderly and the vulnerable. Young and healthy people do not experience the disease as life threatening, many remain asymptomatic. We have reported this in other posts including South Africa using numbers to justify suffering. The BBC article quotes the head of Africa’s Centres for Disease Control on the importance of more testing, and yet the South African government has admitted that wide spread testing, especially of asymptomatic people is not possible. Perhaps the following questions should be asked of the WHO:
- Why do they say the pandemic increasing and likely to do so for the “foreseeable future” if all evidence shows that the peak of cases has occurred after two months in most countries? Why is there going to be a continued steady increase in the region, if that hasn’t been seen in other countries? What evidence is there for that prediction?
- If there is a lack of testing outside the cities how do we know if the cases are spreading?
- Are mortality rates from COVID19 increasing or is the increase in deaths due to other reasons, including the consequences of lockdown?
- The WHO’s warnings of ever increasing cases and deaths, reported by the BBC, UK Guardian and other media, seems to be to keep pressure on South Africa, and in turn to use them as an example to pressure other African countries to lockdown, despite the numbers not supporting this view. As South Africa goes, so does much of the continent.
- Africa should be very cautious in accepting the prognoses of the WHO, especially when weighing up the profound socio-economic impact of the lockdown measures against comparatively few cases of COVID19. As the vast majority of mortalities in all countries are the elderly and vulnerable, it seems unlikely we will see a huge increase in mortalities in a predominantly young population. The consequences of prolonging lockdown are likely to be much worse.