Behavioral Issues, Infrastructural Gaps Major COVID-19 Risks For Africa - Health Chief

MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 10th April, 2020) The fear of seeking medical care, untreated chronic diseases and the unpreparedness of emergency health care response systems in Africa make the COVID-19 outbreak particularly threatening for the continent, the executive director of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Catherine Kyobutungi, told Sputnik.

According to the APHRC chief, the prevalence of diseases, such as malaria, among the African population, as well as a fear of contacting health care professionals, could lead to COVID-19 having a devastating impact on the continent.

"Fear of seeking care whereby people stay away from health facilities for both curative services and preventive services like family planning and immunization; delayed diagnosis and treatment of acute conditions, like malaria and pneumonia leading to higher mortality; delayed diagnosis of chronic conditions like cancer, reducing the chances of positive treatment outcomes," Kyobutungi said, identifying the main challenges the African health care system faces.

She also warned that the poor state of the continent's emergency response systems could lead to further deaths, particularly when social distancing measures are applied to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.

"In the absence of functional emergency response systems, social distancing measures such as lockdowns or curfews have resulted in difficulty to access care during emergencies leading to death in some cases," the APHRC chief stated.

Despite the risks posed, Kyobutungi said that enforcing nationwide lockdowns to curb the COVID-19 outbreak will be beneficial for reducing local transmission of the disease.

"The lockdowns and curfews, while not 100 percent effective, are reducing the number of contacts potential undetected cases can have outside well-defined circles. This makes the number of contacts per new cases fewer and hence more manageable," she stated.

A total of 52 African countries have reported cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began at the turn of the year. On Tuesday, the total number of positive tests on the continent surpassed 10,000, resulting in more than 500 deaths.

Several African countries, including South Africa and Burkina Faso, have introduced measures such as nationwide lockdowns or curfews as part of attempts to slow the spread of the disease.