As of April 20, 14,068 people in Africa have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. The transmissibility of the virus, combined with the scarcity of crucial health equipment and the challenges of implementing widespread physical distancing and case isolation, poses a grave threat to the continent, say the authors of a study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases.
To illustrate the potential burden of SARS-CoV-2 epidemics within the most vulnerable countries in Africa, the authors simulated a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the absence of interventions.
Using an age-structured epidemiological model and assuming a basic reproductive number of 2.72 (95% CI 2.56-2.87), the model estimated that, in the absence of physical distancing, there would be 76,213,155 infections (95% CI 74,156,965-77,800,029) and 319,441 deaths (313,079–324,175). Individuals younger than 20 years would account for almost 43 million of these simulated SARS-CoV-2 infections (56.1%) and individuals aged ≥50 years would constitute 280,623 (87.8%) of deaths.
Sparse testing capacity makes assessing the true burden of COVID-19 difficult, the authors remarked. They added that, given the high prevalence of comorbidities in DRC, as there is in Africa more broadly, the death toll could be much higher.