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.
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