Editorial : WHO Africa study poses some hard questions

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A new WHO Africa study based on assumptions that no containment measures are put in place projects that the novel coronavirus could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in Africa in the first year, and infect between 29 million and 44 million in the first year.

Thankfully, most countries on the continent have imposed restrictions on public gatherings, international travel and curfews among other measures meant to curb spread of the virus, so the likelihood of the casualty rate being that steep is not to be expected.

Another reason is that the virus hit Africa later than other continents, and transmission rates are lower than elsewhere because we had the benefit of hindsight and international best practices to abide by.

With our weak health systems and low technological capacity, one would have wondered what the situation could have been had the outbreak hit the continent first instead of Wuhan in China, and what the outcome would have been.

WHO Africa head Matshidiso Moeti says COVID-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. “We need to test, trace, isolate and treat,” he entreats.

Africa has less than one intensive-care bed and one ventilator per 100,000 people, and human resources are also a challenge. Most African countries already have a severe shortage of healthcare workers; this is why WHO Africa is extremely worried that almost 1,000 African health workers have been infected with COVID-19.

Closer to home at the Trust Hospital in Osu, about 60 workers including doctors, nurses, and other staff have been asked to go into self-isolation while they await their test results from Noguchi. This is because some workers came into contact with two Covid-19 patients, and as a result the hospital has been shut down for a fumigation exercise.

These are some of the concerns that Moeti and the WHO are worried about as the virus sweeps across the continent. Ghana’s infected cases are on the ascendency, crossing over the 3,000 mark; and we need to follow the WHO protocols to test, trace, isolate and treat.

Health officials tell us that Ghana has reached its peak, and that means we should be seeing a downward spiral of infected cases. And since their projections are based on science and data, we are hopeful but not complacent – since that could mean living in a fool’s paradise.

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