The new Corona virus can kill 150,000 people in Africa within a year, unless urgent action is taken, according to a study by the World Health Organization, which expects 231 million, or nearly a quarter of a billion people, to be affected by the epidemic on the continent.
The authors of the research, which was published yesterday in the magazine BMG Global Health, predicted a lower rate of infection than other parts of the world such as Europe and the United States, with fewer severe cases and deaths.
But while researchers said that many African countries were quick to adopt containment measures, they warned that health systems could quickly fall under severe stress.
"Our model indicates the scale of the problem for health systems, if containment measures fail," the researchers wrote.
The study is being published amid stark warnings that Covid-19 threatens a health emergency in developing countries, where already weak health systems are struggling to respond to a host of other chronic diseases.
Experts at the WHO office in Africa set a model for possible rates of exposure to HIV and infection in 47 countries, within the framework of its regional specialization, which does not include Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia.
About 231 million people, or 22% (within a range of 16 to 26%), were expected to be infected by the billion people who lived in the region over a 12-month period, most of whom had little or no symptoms.
But an estimated 4.6 million people will need hospitalization, while 140,000 people will have an acute "Covid-19" infection, and 89,000 will be in a critical condition.
The study suggested that this lead to about 150,000 deaths (between 83 and 190,000).
Computer models estimate what can happen to each country, over the course of a year, from the onset of widespread and sustainable transmission to society.
The researchers warned that the high number of cases that require hospitalization will divert originally limited resources from addressing the main health issues in the region, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition, which further exacerbate the impact of Corona.
"The region will see fewer deaths, but it will occur more in the relatively younger age groups, among people who were previously considered healthy, due to undiagnosed non-communicable diseases," the report said, adding that these trends are already emerging.
The researchers said they expected the virus to likely continue to circulate within the region, for a longer period than in other countries, perhaps for several years.
They estimated the high incidence of infection in small countries, as they found that the risk of exposure would be the highest in Mauritius. Among the large countries in the region, South Africa, Cameroon and Algeria were in the top 10 in terms of risk of exposure to infection.
The researchers calculated this risk by looking at the "pool factor" in each country (including family size and population density), ease of movement and sanitation facilities, and hygiene practices.
They also took into account the weather factor. It is not known whether the higher temperatures slow down the spread of Covid-19.
The researchers considered the measures each country took to contain the virus, including spacing.
They also looked at health risk factors, such as the proportion of the population over the age of 65, the spread of HIV (as an alternative to chronic infectious conditions), and diabetes (as an alternative to chronic non-communicable diseases). The report assumed that about 88% of people will not know that they are infected with the virus, whether they develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, while 4% will experience severe or life-threatening symptoms. The United Nations said, this month, the number of deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa could double if there were poor health care delivery for people with AIDS during the Corona crisis.
The researchers said they expected Corona to continue to spread within the region for a longer period of time than other countries ... perhaps for years.