Africans Immune to Coronavirus? A lie through our teeth
There are conspiracy theories and bogus claims that are looming the media and giving false hope to Africans. Though not proven, we are clinging to the notion that is gradually leading us to a massive death toll. A blood-curdling war is raging and all the muzzles of a thousand rifles pointed at our army base, yet our soldiers are busy dancing and rejoicing over the past wars that they have won, being reassured that they are somehow resistant to the oncoming bullets. “Let’s drink, let’s party”, declares the army commander with a frothing mug of ale.
Africa is a continent which carries 24% of the global disease burden yet it has 1% of the global health expenditure and 3% of the total health workers. (IFC,2020) The false hope of no black person being confirmed yet with the Corona Virus is masquerading the real data that depicts the vulnerability of our motherland.
Correct information should be your friend at this prime time
A strange ailment hailing from Wuhan in China in January 2020, took the world by surprise and sparked spontaneous reactions. Some applauded China for its prompt action to inform the World Health Organization in time, yet some claimed that the government had this information earlier and they were trying to conceal it until hell broke loose. Rumours spread of the disease being man-made, in a secret Chinese lab and made headlines all over the world. Despite the fringe theory being vehemently dismissed by scientists, it is gaining global attention with unverified social media accounts passing on the information. (Kaur, 2020)
Besides, another myth was birthed in early February that would change the fate of Africa. A popular news site posted that a Cameroonian student studying in China had been cured of the Corona Virus because of his genetic composition which was immune to the infection. Hasty generalization made them conclude that all people from Sub-Saharan Africa are resistant to the virus, hence they are safe. The logical fallacy was proven wrong when a series of tests were conducted by physicians and they could track that the cure was brought about by the series of antibiotics and other drugs they had given him. Moreover, he had been quarantined for thirteen days which increased his chances of survival. (Palma,2020)
African media houses found this as great news and intended to show the world that Africans are a ‘superior race’. The information was quickly disseminated on mainstream media and other platforms which increased the laxity of the governments to adequately prepare for the pandemic that was just around the corner. Unfortunately, this notion was backed up by solid evidence that no black person had been infected yet the one who had got cured almost immediately. While other countries were busy setting up safety measures, changing healthcare policies, funnelling more money on healthcare and educating the public, African countries were eagerly waiting for the ticking time bomb to explode with the confidence that their genes are immune. Countries like Equitorial Guinea donated millions of dollars to China to assist in curbing the disease, yet they had not spent a dime in preventing the disease from reaching their country. The misinformation of Corona immunity that was orchestrated by unknown perpetrators will cost us many lives in the near future if we do not unlearn some ideologies.
The tropical climate made Sub-saharan Africa more Immune?
We all love Africa, don’t we? Our tropical climate in most parts of the continent paves way for the millions of tourists that stream in and provides the best habitat for the diverse wildlife which culminates our prominent heritage. But is this befitting climate too hostile to host Corona?
A myth has recently burst forth that is giving Africans more reasons to believe that they are ‘immune’ to the virus. It claimed that the tropical climate of high temperatures and high humidity in Sub-Saharan Africa does not support the spread of Corona. This information went viral on social media and people made a circular argument in proving this information. Major evidence of this theory was the fact that Indonesia, a country in South-Eastern Asia with a tropical climate, has recorded no case of novel Corona, yet it is surrounded by six countries that have recorded over 85 cases. (Sykariah, 2020) The irony is that there were still passengers travelling from Wuhan in China which is the epicentre of Corona, to Indonesia even days after the outbreak was declared. Moreover, many people from the affected countries passed through Indonesia severally before travelling restrictions were put into effect.
A group of students from Harvard did a case study to debunk this myth and provided evidence that with the data published by Jakarta post, over 98700 passengers travelled from Wuhan to Indonesia, making it one of the most popular destinations. (Salazar, Niehus, Taylor, Buckee.et al)
Other places where passengers from Wuhan made visits had Corona cases. They questioned the quality of the surveillance systems claiming that there should be cases of undetected Corona in the country. Further research revealed that they are using thermal scanners and obsolete thermometer guns which are often inaccurate.
This clearly proves that climate is not yet proven to have a direct effect on the spread of Corona and we cannot conclude that we are on a safer side as a continent because of our tropical climate, as the myth dictates.
We’ve just landed with an extra passenger on-board, the virus!
There was pandemonium in Nigeria when the first case of Coronavirus was confirmed. Fear gripped the entire population. Everyone who sneezed or coughed was stared upon with cold eyes, handshakes were minimized and physical contact was elusive. This is after an Italian Man travelling through Lagos had the Coronavirus. He entered the country undetected of the ailment until he went to the hospital later on to seek medical attention. He was later on quarantined as the government investigates which people he had physical contact within the flight and in Lagos.
Egypt has recently confirmed its Second Coronavirus case after a foreigner passing through Cairo showed the symptoms. However, it is alleged that the government could be hiding the real figures and the number of people infected could be more than twenty. However, Egypt has a poor healthcare system that may cause a sporadic spread of the virus all over the continent. According to Reuters, Algeria has eight cases of Coronavirus and it seems to spread fast than they expected which means other countries in Africa are at risk of having new confirmed case if they do not take necessary measures.
No more myths of immunity. Are we ready?
Most Africa countries are clearly not ready. Recently, most of the hotbed countries of Coronavirus were still being allowed into Kenya with several flights given landing rights, including ones from China. China South Airlines landed in Kenya on February 26th carrying, 239 passengers which caused turmoil. (Gathara,2020) Concerned citizens Petitioned the government on the high court to suspend all flights. These were two doctors and a lawyer, who saw the risk Kenyans were being exposed to and filed the petition, while the government had taken no action.
Other African countries are simply not taking any measure to sensitize their citizens of this pandemic that can be disastrous. The media is focused on news concerning its spread yet little or no emphasis is given on the preventive measures one could take. Moreover, instead of improving surveillance systems, the Kenyan government has asked its citizens to Self-quarantine when they come back from visiting the countries affected by the virus. Besides, there are only two countries in Africa that have equipped reagents to test for Corona, one in Senegal and the other in South Africa despite WHO promises to dispatch these samples to over 36 countries.
These actions by the government clearly reveal how Kenya and other African countries are waiting for the Coronavirus outbreak to fully inhibit the countries in order for them to take action. We cannot stand and see our continent falling apart due to preventive measures that we could lobby the government and other relevant stakeholders to put into place. The notion that we are immune to novel Coronavirus should be debunked and massive capacity building spiked to enlighten more people of this pandemic that is seemingly coming sooner or later.
- Gathara, P. (2020). Kenya needs to stop panicking and start preparing for coronavirus. Retrieved 5 March 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/kenya-stop-panicking-start-preparing-coronavirus-200302110915576.html
- IFC. (2020). Health & Education in Africa. Retrieved 5 March 2020, from https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/REGION__EXT_Content/Regions/Sub-Saharan+Africa/Investments/HealthEducation/
- Palma. (2020). Did Chinese Doctors Confirm African People Are Genetically Resistant to Coronavirus?. Retrieved 5 March 2020, from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/coronavirus-cameroonian-student/
- Kaur, H. (2020). Coronavirus myths and misinformation, debunked. Retrieved 5 March 2020, from https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/04/health/debunking-coronavirus-myths-trnd/index.html
- Sykariah. (2020). Climate, immunity, incompetence? Indonesia’s zero recorded coronavirus cases raise questions. Retrieved 5 March 2020, from https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/08/climate-immunity-incompetence-indonesias-zero-recorded-coronavirus-cases-raise-questions.html
- Salazar, P., Niehus, R., Taylor, A., & Buckee, C. (2020). Using predicted imports of 2019-nCoV cases to determine locations that may not be identifying all imported cases. Retrieved 5 March 2020, from https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.04.20020495v2
This is an amazing article! It was indeed predictive of the future. African governments fell into the school of thought that we are immune and did not adequately prepare. We saw an influx of imported cases and the borders remained wide open for a while not knowing this was the tipping point. Great article!
Great article! However, so far how do you think Kenya has handled the COVID-19 outreak?