Africa could see up to 450,000 people test positive for the highly infectious Coronavirus (Covid-19) by the second week of May, putting the continent’s fragile health systems under severe test.
A team of scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine made the prediction based on a mathematical modelling projection, as the number of Covid-19 positive Africans more than doubled in one week to Friday’s figure of more than 6,500 cases.
The scientists also project that each East African country will report at least 10,000 Covid-19 cases by May 10, with Uganda being the last to hit this number.
With 50 out of 56 African countries now reporting Covid-19 cases, the scientists say only strict interventions such as social distancing could make their forecasts wrong.
“We are only projecting reported cases, which are a fraction of actual cases. Ramping up testing, while better for the overall response and the ultimate number of actual cases, would mean seeing more cases sooner,” said Carl Pearson the principal investigator of a paper published on March 25.
The number of coronavirus positive people globally crossed the one million mark on Friday.
More than 53,000 had died from the global pandemic, while 213,000 had recovered. The US had, by far, the highest number of positive cases numbering more than 225,000 on Friday, while Italy’s death toll of nearly 14,000 remains the highest globally.
Within the East African Community, Kenya had the highest tally of 122 Covid-19 cases as at Friday, while South Sudan was yet to report a single case.
The scientific paper, titled Projection of Early Spread of Covid-19 in Africa, estimates the timing for the first 1,000 and first 10,000 coronavirus positive cases for 45 African countries that had reported at least one case within its borders.
Using the Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered (SEIR) predictive modelling used to forecast the Covid-19 outbreak within and outside of China based on daily observations, scientists the world over are trying to forecast the effect of the disease in continents that are now experiencing exponential spread of infections.
In the US, for example, the White House coronavirus task force has presented a grim picture of where America could be heading over the next two months, even with interventions like physical distancing. The task force projects 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the virus, even with mitigation measures in place.
Health experts, including the Africa Centres for Diseases Control (Africa CDC), have expressed concern that the continent has not yet scaled its capacity to capture all the Covid-19 cases.