Source: New York Post
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 26.35 million people, with just four countries accounting for over 15 million cases. They are America, Brazil, India, and Russia — the same four that have been at the top for months. The US surprised the world when it rose to the top spot in multiple COVID-19 statistics, both for the total number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths. Since then, no other country has surpassed America.
But scientists who are studying the pandemic have also identified another surprise of the pandemic. Some expected the African continent to be affected most heavily by the virus, but that wasn’t the case. South Africa stands out when it comes to the number of total cases, with nearly 631,000 infections. But fewer than 15,000 people have died of COVID-19. These figures are puzzling scientists looking to understand how the virus behaves and how it can be beaten.
The hypothesis that poverty should have a significant impact on the spread of the virus doesn’t stand when it comes to the entire African continent. Developing countries like Brazil and India showed that the virus couldn’t be contained once it reached densely populated, but poor, neighborhoods.
Experts expected the same thing to happen in Africa, but it didn’t. If anything, Africa is doing better than any other continent, both when it comes to cases and casualties. As BBC News explains, even if those numbers are significantly underreported, Africa still has it much better than other continents right now.
“I thought we were heading towards a disaster, a complete meltdown,” Professor Shabir Madhi told BBC News. The nation’s top virologist echoed what others must have thought about the African coronavirus outbreak. But South Africa’s death rate is almost seven times lower than in the UK.
Salim Abdool Karim, the head of the country’s COVID-19 response team, told BBC that “most African countries don’t have a peak,” which is surprising. “I don’t understand why. I’m completely at sea,” he added.
He explained that factors like population density would be a critical factor that would favor the rapid spread of the illness inside the African continent. Crowding in poverty-stricken areas makes social distancing all but impossible, and that increases the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
One hypothesis that can explain the disparity between Africa and other continents concerns the overall age of the population. In general, the population of Africa is younger than in regions hardest-hit by COVID-19.