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[Published: Monday October 19 2020]

COVID-19: Why are Africa’s low death rates low?

By Kevin Marsh, Professor of tropical medicine, University of Oxford.

OXFORD, ENGLAND, 19 Oct. - (ANA) - As the threat of a COVID-19 pandemic emerged earlier this year, many felt a sense of apprehension about what would happen when it reached Africa.

Concerns over the combination of overstretched and underfunded health systems and the existing load of infectious and non-infectious diseases often led to it being talked about in apocalyptic terms.

However, it has not turned out quite that way. On September 29th, the world passed the one million reported deaths mark (the true figure will of course be higher). On the same day, the count for Africa was a cumulative total of 35,954.

Africa accounts for 17% of the global population but only 3.5% of the reported global COVID-19 deaths. All deaths are important, we should not discount apparently low numbers, and of course data collected over such a wide range of countries will be of variable quality, but the gap between predictions and what has actually happened is staggering. There has been much discussion on what accounts for this.

The most obvious factor for the low death rates is the population age structure. Across multiple countries the risk of dying of COVID-19 for those aged 80 years or more is around a hundred times that of people in their twenties.

This can best be appreciated with a specific example. As of September 30th, the UK had reported 41,980 COVID-19 specific deaths while Kenya, by contrast, had reported 691. The population of the UK is around 66 million with a median age of 40 compared with Kenya’s population of 51 million with a median age of 20 years.

This is part of article published by The Africa Report on 13 October 2020.   - (ANA) -

For the full text, visit:

AB/ANA/19 October 2020 - - -


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