Hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths and serious infections causing the collapse of already shaky health care systems —this is how experts imagined the effect of the coronavirus pandemic in most African countries.
But, more than four months later, one can say that this horror scenario has not materialized.
While rates of infection and death on other continents have sometimes exploded in recent months, Africa has been spared a high COVID-19 mortality rate — and this despite the fact that people in cities like Dakar and Lagos live under very crowded conditions, with many suffering from poverty and a lack of basic hygienic facilities.
Scientists have been examining the possible reasons for the mild course of the pandemic on the continent.
In an analysis for the journal Science in August, one group of researchers surmised that early action by authorities may have played a role. “Measures such as travel restrictions, curfews and school closures were implemented early in Africa compared with other continents, often before an African country had detected a case,” they wrote.
The authors attributed this readiness to take early action to the experiences of many African countries with other infectious diseases such as Ebola and Lassa fever. The rapid response most likely led to a slower spread of the infection, they said.
But according to the authors of the Science article, there must be other reasons why the worst-case scenario has not occurred, because “[m]ost people work in the informal business sector, such as in traditional markets, making strict lockdown measures impossible to implement.”
The analysis published in Science says immune systems influenced by African environments could be another reason for the comparatively mild course of the pandemic.
This could decisively mitigate the severity of an infectious disease and be another reason why the expected high number of victims in Africa has so far failed to materialize.