Health Desk-29 Sep, 2020: Africa’s overburdened public health systems, dearth of testing facilities and overcrowded slums had experts predicting a disaster when COVID-19 hit the continent in February.
South Africa saw some 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes between early May and mid-July, 59% more than would normally be expected, according to a July report from the South African Medical Research Council. That suggests the death toll from COVID-19 could be significantly higher than the official figure, currently over 16,000, researchers say. Even so, there is wide agreement that COVID-19 fatality rates have not so far been as bad as predicted.
Scientists and public health experts cite a number of possible factors, including the continent’s youthful population and lessons learned from previous disease outbreaks. African governments also had precious time to prepare due to the relative isolation of many of their citizens from airports and other places where they could come into contact with global travellers.
Some scientists also are exploring the possibility that a tuberculosis vaccine routinely given to children in many African countries might be helping reduce deaths from COVID-19.