The World Health Organization has estimated that the coronavirus could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in Africa if containment measures fail in the first year of the pandemic.
It also warned that between 29 million and 44 million could also be infected in the first year.
WHO Africa head Matshidiso Moeti told reporters in a teleconference that these projections were made in a new WHO Africa study.
Dr Moeti said “While coronavirus likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots.”
“We are concerned about the impact that COVID19 will have on the ability of African countries to progress towards Universal Health Coverage,” she adds.
Weeks before cases peak
The WHO Africa head also highlighted that “Overall, looking at the evolution of the COVID19 pandemic, and especially now we are looking at community spread in some countries, we are estimating that this will peak in four to six weeks if nothing is done.”
Many African countries have imposed restrictions on public gatherings introduced curfews and launched extensive testing regime to fight the pandemic.
“It’s not a matter of simply today we have lockdowns and tomorrow everything is opened up. It has to be gradual with the most essential parts of the economy being opened up first….we have guidelines from WHO to progressively releasing these measures,” Dr Moeti said.\
She adds that “We know that to stop the spread of this virus, the key public health measures need to be in place in every community, even where cases have not been reported, readiness capacities should be prepositioned.”
Last month the United Nations also warned that the current coronavirus pandemic was likely to kill at least 300,000 people in Africa.
The global body at the time said the pandemic could also push nearly 30 million people into poverty over the next 3 to 6 months.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa then called for a $100bn safety net for the continent as well as a halt to external debt payments.
In a statement the UN body said “The pandemic continues to impact on the Continent’s struggling economies whose growth is expected to slow down from 3.2 percent to 1.8 percent in a best-case scenario, pushing close to 27 million people into extreme poverty.”