Most developed African countries suffered worst during pandemic, study suggests

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ountries in Africa rated as being better prepared for a pandemic were the worst hit by Covid-19, a study has suggested.

Nations in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Africa Region assessed as having more resilient health systems and the least vulnerable to infectious disease had higher mortality rates and higher levels of restrictions imposed, the findings indicated.

Predictors of higher death rates included large urban populations, stronger pre-pandemic international travel links, and a higher prevalence of HIV among the 42 nations evaluated.

The research, led by the University of Edinburgh and the WHO African Region body, offers “compelling results which challenge accepted views of epidemic preparedness and resilience in Africa”, study authors say.

Findings show South Africa had the highest mortality rate during the first wave between May and August last year, at 33.3 deaths recorded per 100,000 people.

Cape Verde and Eswatini, commonly known as Swaziland, had the next highest rates at 17.5 and 8.6 deaths per 100,000, respectively.

Uganda recorded the lowest mortality rate at 0.26 deaths recorded per 100,000, in the first wave.

South Africa also had the highest death rate during the second wave between December and February at 55.4 per 100,000, while Mauritius had the lowest, with no reported deaths.

Second wave mortality rates could be predicted from the first wave, the study said, although deaths were higher during the second.

Researchers from the NIHR Global Health Research Unit Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA),an African-led programme at the University of Edinburgh, said the pandemic had highlighted “unanticipated vulnerabilities to infectious disease in Africa that should be taken into account in future pandemic preparedness planning.”

Our results show that we should not equate high levels of preparedness and resilience with low vulnerability

Professor Mark Woolhouse, who co-led the study, said: “Our study shows very clearly that multiple factors influence the extent to which African countries are affected by Covid-19.

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