Total coronavirus cases in Africa have surpassed the two million mark despite a slow addition of reported infections compared with other regions around the world, the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.
With the African Union’s health body reporting 2,013,388 cases on Thursday, the continent now represents less than 4 percent of the world’s total cases, which many experts believe to be an undercount.
They believe many COVID-19 infections and related deaths in Africa are likely being missed as testing rates in the continent of about 1.3 billion people are among the lowest in the world, and many deaths of all types go unrecorded.
Africa has reported less than 48,000 coronavirus deaths so far.
Countries such as Sudan, Chad, and Egypt have reported the highest death rates across the continent at 7.81 percent, 6.28 percent and 5.82 percent respectively.
South Africa has the continent’s highest number of reported COVID-19 cases at less than 750,000, with a death rate of 2.71 percent, according to a Reuters tally.
With the continent representing nearly 16.7 percent of the world’s population, about 15 coronavirus cases are reported for every 10,000 people.
Africa’s lower number of infections and deaths compared with Europe, South America and the United States can in part be attributed to several factors aside from a likely undercount.
The virus hit Africa later than other continents, giving medical personnel time to set up field hospitals, source oxygen and ventilators, and learn from treatment improvements.
South Africa introduced one of the world’s toughest lockdowns in late March when the country had confirmed just 400 cases.
Experts also point to the continent’s demographics.
The risk of developing severe COVID-19 increases with age, so the continent’s relatively youthful population is likely contributing to a lower overall death rate, say the experts.
African governments also have experience battling deadly infectious diseases such as Ebola, which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2013 to 2016.
So officials took notice when the new coronavirus started spreading around the globe and many put early measures in place to curb the spread.
More recently, however, the pandemic is having an effect on other vital health services in Africa as countries are forced to redirect already stretched resources, a regional head of the World Health Organization said.