Billionaire Bill Gates has said he still doesn’t know why the number of cases of COVID-19 in Africa is not as high as earlier predicted.
The philanthropist had earlier projected a serious situation with the pandemic in Africa.
However, the cases in the continent haven’t measured up to his projection.
“One thing I’m happy to have been wrong about—at least, I hope I was wrong—is my fear that COVID-19 would run rampant in low-income countries,” he wrote in his end of the year note.
“So far, this hasn’t been true. In most of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, case rates and death rates remain much lower than in the U.S. or Europe and on par with New Zealand, which has received so much attention for its handling of the virus.
“The hardest-hit country on the continent is South Africa—but even there, the case rate is 40 percent lower than in the U.S., and the death rate is nearly 50 percent lower.”
According to Gates, “more than 1.6 million people have died in the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 75 million cases and tens of trillions of dollars in economic damages”.
His wife, Melinda Gates, had also said that Africa would be worst hit by COVID-19.
The projections haven’t been the case and the world wonders why.
Bill Gates said, “we don’t have enough data yet to understand why the numbers aren’t as high as I worried they would get” — but gave probable reasons Africa was not as affected as expected.
“It helped that some countries locked down early. In Africa, another reason may be that the population is young compared with the rest of the world’s, and young people are less susceptible to the virus.
“Another reason could be that its large rural population spends a lot of time outside, where it’s harder to spread the virus. It is also possible—though I hope this is not the case—that the true numbers are higher than they look because gaps in poor countries’ health care systems are making it hard to monitor the disease accurately.”
Gates said one of his fears that have been justified is that “COVID-19 is having a ripple effect with other diseases. Last month, I was surprised to learn that it was only the 31stmost common cause of death in Africa. By comparison, it has ranked number four around the world, and number one in America.”
“Why does it rank so low in Africa? It’s not just the relatively low incidence of COVID-19 there. It’s also because shifting health workers to focus on the coronavirus disrupted efforts to detect and treat HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases. As a result, COVID-19 stayed low on the list of health threats, but other problems came roaring back.
“Another reason is that patients are more reluctant to go to clinics for fear they might become infected—and that means more severe conditions are going undiagnosed. In India, for example, the diagnosis rate for tuberculosis has dropped by roughly a third. With more undetected cases, more people will probably die from the disease.
“This is another reason why the world’s goal should be to make sure that lifesaving tools reach—and are practical for—every country, not just rich ones.”