An opinion article from Dr Austin Jeans, team lead for Kufema’s Medical Advisory Committee.
As I write this piece, stewing as it has in my brain for some days, we find ourselves at the start of the Easter period, a time most notably celebrated as a message of great hope by Christians worldwide. At the same time we find ourselves amidst the global viral COVID19 pandemic, as declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has dramatically changed life as we knew it.
Globally the number of confirmed infections stands at over 1.6 million with nearly 95,000 deaths despite a raft of containment measures adopted to different degrees by individual Governments of the countries of the world. As a continent with its current burden of COVID19, Africa sits quite far down on the ‘scoreboard’ with a total of 12,000 cases to date in 52 countries, a death toll of 576 and only three African countries thus far having over 1000 confirmed cases (South Africa 1900 cases, Algeria & Egypt 1600 cases). When you compare these figures to other countries like the USA (currently at 469,000 cases, over 16,500 deaths) or Spain (153,000 cases, 15,000 deaths) and Italy (143,000 cases, 18,000 deaths) it poses some really pertinent questions.
Are we in Africa simply behind the pandemic curve and thereby poised on the brink of an ‘avalanche’ of COVID19? Do the relatively few cases so far identified in Africa (and specifically here in Zimbabwe) point to effective early containment measures or a capacity failure thus far to test adequate numbers of people in the population at large?
Is it possible that COVID19 in Zimbabwe will not actually become the ‘infection armageddon’ being experienced in other countries where exponential numbers of very sick people overwhelm hospital care facilities and health care workers? As the World Bank reports on economic indicators that predict a devastating impact on the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa, the consequences of this global crisis and the actions taken thus far to combat it are of paramount concern to each and every one of us. We are all looking to our political leaders for the exit strategies that will keep us safe but at the same time mitigate our national and individual economic demise!
Is there hope? I think there is.
The points I want to address that give me room for hope are:
- The current scale of the COVID19 problem in Zimbabwe.
- Factors that may reduce the likelihood of this ballooning to pandemic proportions.
b) Outdoor environs
c) Population age demographics
d) Metabolic health
e) BCG vaccination status
f) Early containment (lock-down) measures