The novel coronavirus has contaminated more than 26.35 million people, with just four countries accounting for over 15 million cases.
They’re America, Brazil, India and Russia, the same four that have been at the top for months.
The US stunned the world when it climbed to the top spot in multiple COVID 19 statistics, both for the total number of documented cases and the number of deaths – since then, no other country has overtaken America.
Africa reported its millionth official COVID 19 case last month and it appears to have survived the pandemic moderately well so far, with fewer than one confirmed case for every thousand people and just 23,000 deaths so far.
After testing more than 3000 blood donors, it was estimated in a preprint that one in 20 Kenyans aged 15 to 64, or 1.6 million people has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, an indication of past infection.
That would put Kenya on a par with Spain in mid-May when that country was descending from its coronavirus peak and had 27,000 official COVID 19 deaths. Kenya’s official toll stood at 100 when the study concluded, and Kenya’s hospitals were not reporting massive numbers of people with COVID 19 symptoms.
Further antibody studies in Africa have yielded similarly startling findings.
From a survey of 500 asymptomatic health care workers in Blantyre, Malawi, immunologist Kondwani Jambo of the Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme and coworkers concluded that up to 12.3 per cent of them had been exposed to the coronavirus.
Based on those findings and mortality ratios for COVID 19 elsewhere, they calculated that the reported number of casualties in Blantyre at the time 17, was eight times lower than anticipated.
Scientists who studied about 10,000 people in the northeastern cities of Nampula and Pemba in Mozambique discovered antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in 3 per cent to 10 per cent of participants, depending on their profession. Market traders had the highest rates, followed by health workers.
Yet in Nampula, a municipality of about 750,000, a sheer 300 infections had been confirmed at the time.
Mozambique only had 16 confirmed COVID 19 deaths.
Yap Boum, a microbiologist and epidemiologist with Epicentre Africa, the research and training arm of Doctors Without Borders, said he discovered a high preponderance of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in people from Cameroon as well, a result that remained unpublished.
So what explains the enormous gap between antibody data on the one hand and the official case and death counts on the other?
Part of the reason may be that Africa misses many more cases than other regions of the world because it has far less testing capacity.
Kenya tests approximately one in every 10,000 inhabitants every day for active SARS-CoV-2 infections, one-tenth of the rate in Spain or Canada.
Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, tests one out of every 50,000 people per day and many people who die from COVID 19 may not get a proper diagnosis. But in that case, you would expect an overall rise in mortality, which Kenya has not seen.
Maybe it’s because they have a robust immune system as a result of exposure to different illnesses, such as malaria, their diet, the environment and numerous other factors that seem to work for Africa in terms of COVID 19?
Or perhaps it’s more to do with inadequate infrastructure, the movement of people is small and the number of people flying is small and getting from one major metropolis to another is only embarked by the few?