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How COVID-19 spread in Africa over space and time

Summary of the research article published under the DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.21.20074435

Published onDec 29, 2022
How COVID-19 spread in Africa over space and time
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The spatio-temporal epidemic dynamics of COVID-19 outbreak in Africa
The spatio-temporal epidemic dynamics of COVID-19 outbreak in Africa

Abstract The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged in the city of Wuhan, China in December 2019. Although, the disease appears on the African continent late, it has spread to virtually all the countries. We provide early spatio-temporal dynamics of COVID-19 within the first 62 days of the disease’s appearance on the African continent. We used a two-parameter hurdle Poisson model to simultaneously analyze the zero counts and the frequency of occurrence. We investigate the effects of important healthcare capacities including hospital beds and number of medical doctors in the different countries. The results show that cases of the pandemic vary geographically across Africa with notable high incidence in neighboring countries particularly in West and North Africa. The burden of the disease (per 100,000) was most felt in Djibouti Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Temporally, during the first 4 weeks, the burden was highest in Senegal, Egypt and Mauritania, but by mid-April it shifted to Somalia, Chad, Guinea, Tanzania, Gabon, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Currently, Namibia, Angola, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda have the least burden. The findings could be useful in implementing epidemiological intervention and allocation of scarce resources based on heterogeneity of the disease patterns.

Researchers used statistical models to calculate where in Africa COVID-19 infections were the most prevalent, and how quickly the virus spread in different parts of the continent. They found that West and North Africa were the most affected overall, while the disease spread the quickest in North Africa and made its way through central and southern Africa. They found that travel restrictions play an important role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and in making the most of scarce healthcare resources.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in the city of Wuhan, China in December 2019, and it arrived relatively late in Africa but it quickly spread to every country on the continent.

The researchers set out to get a clearer picture of how the availability of doctors and other healthcare facilities affected where and how quickly COVID-19 infections occurred. The results can help governments allocate scarce healthcare resources where they are needed most.

To understand how this happened, researchers have used the Poisson model of statistics to calculate when and where each of the COVID-19 infections happened in Africa over 62 days, from 14th February 2020 to 15th April 2020. They used public data reported by the World Health Organization, for 47 countries.

The results showed that Senegal, Egypt, and Mauritania were the first to be hit hard by high infection rates in the four weeks. They found that Djibouti, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, were the countries where the most infections per 100 000 people occurred over the 62 days.

The statistical methods of the research meant that the researchers have to separate the study period into six equal-week periods. The study is limited by a lack of data in the first four weeks so the researchers considered the first four weeks as one week, and equated this month-long week to each of the remaining weeks.

This research shows that overseas travellers into the continent were behind the initial importation of COVID-19, but also that poor border control and a lack of travel restrictions on the continent allowed further spread in infections.

Number of words: 353

Disclaimer: This summary is a free resource intended to make African research and research that affects Africa, more accessible to non-expert global audiences. It was compiled by ScienceLink's team of professional African science communicators as part of the Masakhane MT: Decolonise Science project. ScienceLink has taken every precaution possible during the writing, editing, and fact-checking process to ensure that this summary is easy to read and understand, while accurately reporting on the facts presented in the original research paper. Note, however, that this summary has not been fact-checked or approved by the authors of the original research paper, so this summary should be used as a secondary resource. Therefore, before using, citing or republishing this summary, please verify the information presented with the original authors of the research paper, or email for more information.

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