Is Africa Ready for Coronavirus?

Africa seems to be dodging the worst of the coronavirus for the time being.

In the last two months, coronavirus has dominated the lives and attention of people all round the world. However, while Europe and the United states have been hit hard, with cases increasing at alarming rates, Africa seems to be dodging the worst of the virus for the time being.

It is hard to know exactly why the number of cases in Africa have remained comparatively low, but with the rapid spread of the virus increasing across the globe, it is only a matter of time before Africa will have to deal with coronavirus cases in a similar volume.

As the entire world braces for coronavirus, It is difficult to say if anyone is ready to handle the demands of the coronavirus pandemic, but Africa has many distinct features that may help or hinder it in the fight against the new pandemic.

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While coronavirus has put a strain on the entire world, hopefully the early measure put in place by many African governments, as well as the infrastructure already in place, make them more equipped than most to handle the outbreak. 

More so than Europe or the United States, Africa has a lot of recent experience handling contagious diseases like coronavirus.

The ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people in west Africa, has left much of Africa on high alert for the next outbreak. It should come as no surprise that many African countries already have important structures in place to deal with problems like coronavirus.

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According to Reuters, many central Africa was testing individuals for viral diseases before China announced the existence of coronavirus in an attempt to prevent the emergence of new diseases. This means that Africa, more so than the United States or Europe, already may have much of the infrastructure in place for handling an outbreak of coronavirus.

Rather than having to construct new medical facilities and implement new plans to deal with the virus, they may be able to upgrade and repurpose old facilities.

However, if coronavirus were to spread to some of Africa’s poorer areas, they would be devastated. The close-quarters nature of these spaces, as well as the poorer sanitation would cause the virus to spread at a rapid pace, putting unbelievable strain on healthcare in those areas.

According to Reuters, people living in these areas will be unable to effectively self-quarantine as a result of their extremely limited living space.For these regions, prevention will be essential if the virus is to be contained.

To this end, many African governments limited travel to and from heavily infected areas such as Europe, Asia, and the United States early in order to stop the spread of the virus within their borders.

Most of the cases in Africa are travelers, so limiting travel is a smart move to prevent further outbreaks. South Africa has already declared a 21-day lockdown to try to halt the spread of the virus, and Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe have begun to close their borders to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Though it is unlikely these early efforts will halt coronavirus’s spread altogether, they should help to slow down the virus’s impact in these countries.

The fight against coronavirus in Africa continues to develop, and though these early efforts have no doubt helped, how Africa handles the disease as outbreaks develop will have a much greater role in determining the continent's success in handling the pandemic.

Africa faces many challenges when it comes to containing the disease. According to the Associated Press, some countries may lack sufficient screening devices at borders, making it even more difficult to track how coronavirus is entering countries.

Additionally, instability caused by war in countries like Burkina Faso will make it extremely difficult to impose harsh restrictions on travel, leading to greater risk of an outbreak.

The coronavirus pandemic is a global problem that every country will need to find a way to address. So far, many African governments have taken important steps early to minimize the damage the virus will cause to the continent, but as the virus continues to spread, the demands it places on national healthcare systems, governments, and people will only continue to grow.

Ph: Dennis Wegewijs /