80% of COVID-19 cases in Africa are asymptomatic – WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following a WHO Emergency committee to discuss whether the Coronavirus, the SARS-like virus, outbreak that began in China constitutes an international health emergency, on January 30, 2020 in Geneva. - The UN health agency declared an international emergency over the deadly coronavirus from China -- a rarely used designation that could lead to improved international co-ordination in tackling the disease. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

In Africa, more than eight out of ten Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic or show few symptoms, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“Since 20 July, the region has seen a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases,” and  “80% of the cases are asymptomatic,” the international health body said. 

Across the continent, few people fall ill (and even fewer are reported to be severe cases) or show symptoms of COVID-19 infection. This could explain Africa’s resilience to the virus and the low mortality rate recorded compared to other regions (the number of deaths in Africa is 80 times lower than the figure reported in the US). 

According to some experts, notably the WHO, this could be due to the structure (demographic and urbanistic) of African societies. Also, available data suggests that young people, who are more resilient to the virus, are the most infected on the continent. This is in a context where it happens that the illness gets more severe the older the infected individuals are. In Africa however, the median age of the population is 20 years and 41% of the African population is below 15 years old. 

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It is also worth noting that population density in African countries is far less significant than in other regions (despite multiple alarmist narratives about demographics and overpopulation). This could mitigate contact and subsequently the propagation of the virus. Lastly, the WHO says Africa’s warm and humid climate could be among the factors explaining the decline of COVID-19 cases the continent records. 

Vigilance is key

Nevertheless, the WHO warns against complacency, urging African governments to be cautious and to use localized and targeted responses.

At present, over 1.47 million cases have been reported in Africa and 35,500 people have succumbed to the virus. As at Tuesday the 29th of September, Ghana records 38 fresh 38 covid-19 cases; active cases stands at 530 with 301 deaths.