Taboo: Why Is Africa the Global COVID ‘Cold Spot’ and Why Are We Afraid to Talk About It?

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by Jon Entine and Patrick Whittle , The Unz Review:

The first COVID-19 case in Africa was confirmed on February 14th, 2020, in Egypt. The first in sub-Saharan Africa appeared in Nigeria soon after. Health officials were united in a near-panic about how the novel coronavirus would roll through the world’s second most populous continent. By mid-month, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed four sub-Saharan countries on a “Top 13” global danger list because of direct air links to China. Writing for the Lancet, two scientists with the Africa Center for Disease Control outlined a catastrophe in the making:

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With neither treatment nor vaccines, and without pre-existing immunity, the effect [of COVID-19] might be devastating because of the multiple health challenges the continent already faces: rapid population growth and increased movement of people; existing endemic diseases… re-emerging and emerging infectious pathogens… and others; and increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases.

Many medical professionals predicted that Africa could spin into a death spiral. “My advice to Africa is to prepare for the worst, and we must do everything we can to cut the root problem,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African director-general of the WHO, warned in March 2020. “I think Africa, my continent, must wake up.” By spring, the WHO was projecting 44 million or more cases in Africa and the World Bank issued a map of the continent colored in blood red, anticipating that the worst was imminent:

These dire warnings seemed to make sense. After all, two-thirds of the global extreme poor population (63 percent) live in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank, more than 40 percent of the region lives in extreme poverty beset by unhygienic environments, conflict, fragmented healthcare and education systems, and dysfunctional leadership—all factors that could light a match to the tinder of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Scientists say that most African countries lack the capacity and expertise to manage endemic deadly diseases like malaria.

Each individual’s risk of dying from a particular disease tends to reflect access to adequate healthcare and underlying health conditions (co-morbidities). Those factors have proved to be a lethal mix in poorer communities in the US, Brazil, the UK, and other countries, with lower income groups—often ethnic and racial minorities—dying at disproportionately high rates. Africa seemed ripe for catastrophe.

But disaster never came. Africa has not been affected on anything like the scale of most countries in Asia, Europe, and North and South America. (The major exceptions being China, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand, which zealously enforced lockdowns.) In fact, the vast African sub-continent south of the Sahara desert, more than 1.1 billion people, has emerged as the world’s COVID-19 “cold spot,” as illustrated by an ECDC map reproduced by BBC and by graphics like these:

As dramatic as the statistics and graphs are, they significantly overstate African cases and fatalities, as the African continent includes the mostly white countries of North Africa, which have been hit far harder by COVID than sub-Saharan Africa.
As dramatic as the statistics and graphs are, they significantly overstate African cases and fatalities, as the African continent includes the mostly white countries of North Africa, which have been hit far harder by COVID than sub-Saharan Africa.

The latest statistics show about four million cases and 107,000 coronavirus-related deaths, concentrated mostly in the Arab majority countries north of the Sahara. Except for South Africa—the most multiracial of the black-majority countries—and Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa has largely been spared. And these startling low case and death statistics come even as Africa has the lowest vaccination rate in the world—less than one dose administered per 100 people, and with many countries having given none to the general population.

Africa CDC
Africa CDC

Europe has less than two-thirds of the population of Africa, but by mid-March 2021, it had 39 million cases and almost 900,000 deaths—900 percent more. The US, with less than a third of the population of Africa, has approximately 30 million cases and 535,00 deaths as of this writing, thousands of percent more on a per capita basis than Africa. In other words, the US, Europe, and parts of South America are experiencing far more than 1,000 deaths per million while most of sub-Saharan Africa has between 0.5 and 25 deaths per million, according to stats updated regularly by Wikipedia.

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