As many as 190,000 people across Africa could die in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic if crucial containment measures fail, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns.
The new research also predicts a prolonged outbreak over a few years.
“It likely will smoulder in transmission hot spots,” says WHO Africa head Matshidiso Moeti.
This patchier and slower pattern of transmission sets Africa apart from other regions, WHO experts say.
Other factors taken into account are the region’s younger populations who have “benefitted from the control of communicable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis”, as well as lower mortality rates.
The WHO’s warning comes as Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, and others including South Africa, have begun relaxing some of their lockdown measures.
Their estimates are based on prediction modelling, and focus on 47 countries in the WHO African region – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti are not included.
Across the whole of the African continent more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths have been recorded by Africa’s Centre for Disease Control. By comparison, 140,000 have died in Western Europe, where the virus took hold several weeks earlier.
“Covd-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region,” Dr Moeti says in a WHO statement.
“We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.”