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Experts warn of Covid-19 crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa

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WARNED AGAINST LOOSENING MITIGATION EFFORTS—Murray

Projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) for Sub-Saharan Africa show that even in the best-case scenario, Covid-19 would still exact a heavy toll on the region with an estimated total of 85,688 deaths by December 1 up from 15,000 deaths in mid-July.

IHME is an independent global health research organisation at the University of Washington School of Medicine and provides comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies to address them.

In a statement released Monday, IHME indicates that the largest numbers of deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa are likely to occur in Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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On the other hand, the institute says nearly universal adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing mandates in hard-hit countries could prevent up to 73,085 deaths in the region by December 1.

“If governments instead continue to relax social-distancing measures and mask-wearing is not widely practised, total deaths by December 1 could rise to 180,273. Near universal adherence to mask-wearing and other prevention measures could reduce the death toll to 85,688 total deaths by December 1. However, if people ignore such efforts, IHME forecasts 158,773 deaths,” the statement says.

IHME Director Dr Christopher Murray said that these new projections suggest that such mandates must continue to play a critical role and that people in all countries should wear masks regularly.

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“As we have seen in the United States, the price of loosening these mitigation efforts prematurely could be significant increases in new cases and deaths,” Murray said.

IHME’s modelling of the Covid-19 pandemic is said to draw on reporting from African ministries of health as well as data characterising the virus’s spread from countries around the world.

The projections were produced in consultation with the Africa CDC, an arm of the African Union.

“These data provide an additional set of projections that governments can take into consideration in their decision-making process on how best to protect lives,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC.

He added: “Many thousands of deaths can be prevented by continuing to encourage correct, widespread, consistent mask use, social distancing and careful people movement.

“We at the Africa CDC are working closely and collaboratively with heads of state, ministers of health and others to provide counsel on how to navigate this epidemic, while seeking to minimise the economic and social consequences.”

Malawi recently gazetted new Covid-19 prevention measures which include mandatory wearing of face masks in public places and restrictions on social gatherings to not more than 10 people.

As of Sunday, the country had recorded 4,658 confirmed Covid-19 cases out of which 146 have died while 2,375 have recovered.

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