A map has been created to illustrate the continent’s most at-risk countries for the coronavirus and those best equipped to fend off the epidemic.
People hoped the coronavirus – or COVID-19, as it has been officially renamed by the World Health Organization (WHO) – was contained, stabilized or even on the decline. However, once Chinese authorities adopted a broader definition of coronavirus cases, at the flip of a switch the number of persons infected dramatically increased from an estimated 44,000 on 12 February to more than 60,000 on 13 February, with the vast majority of cases reported in China and, for the time being, no cases reported in Africa.
However, WHO and the African branch of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prefer to be cautious: statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that Africa will be the only continent unaffected by COVID-19, and it is possible that there are people in Africa who have the virus but have simply not yet been detected.
At this time, the various suspected cases in countries like Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have proved to be false alarms.
In an effort to go beyond basic probabilities and platitudes, scientists from Europe, Africa and the United States teamed up to map, as precisely as possible, the virus’s importation risk in Africa. Which countries are the most at risk and where does the illness have the greatest chance of being appropriately stamped out?
From the most vulnerable countries…
To answer these questions, doctors, epidemiologists, demographers and public health experts compared data, created a methodology and drew up maps.
The results of their work, which was conducted under the supervision of experts from INSERM at Sorbonne Université, were published online at medrxiv.org and provide a list – accompanied by various maps and charts – of the African countries most vulnerable to the arrival of COVID-19.
Part of what makes the study so original is that it takes into account the volume of air traffic connections between each African country and Chinese regions heavily impacted by the virus (see map 1).
Based on this criterion, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa stand out the most and, since the first infected individuals are highly likely to arrive in Africa via air travel, are the most at risk.