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Opinion: What the US can learn from how African countries handled Covid

November 3, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Epidemiologists had expected weak health systems in Africa  to crumble under the weight of COVID. Eight months into the pandemic, Africa with a population of 1.3 billion, reported approximately 1.6 million COVID infections, while the US, on its way to its third peak, has reported more than eight million.

While some of this low reporting could be attributed to poor testing, Africa as a continent appears to have handled the pandemic more effectively than the US has.

While many factors contribute to differences in Covid-19 outcomes, there are striking differences in the quality of leadership, disaster preparedness, conformity to scientific advice, and coherence in pandemic response strategies that appear to have played important roles.

In contrast, several of US government leaders continue to ignore basic social distancing and mask guidelines set by their own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the federal government banned travel by foreign nationals from China and eventually other countries, including parts of the EU, they failed to follow it up with any coherent plan, continued denying the severity of Covid, and made unscientific statements about how the virus will disappear like a miracle.

Another key difference between the leadership of many African nations and the US is the extent to which people with public health policy and pandemic expertise were allowed to set guidelines.

Fourteen countries in Africa now perform more than 100 tests per 10,000 people.

South Africa, Cameroon, Mauritania, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, and parts of Nigeria have set up large-scale community door-to-door campaigns to test, treat, and isolate potential Covid patients.

The Covid-19 pandemic is global, and effective responses require international cooperation.

In February, Institut Pasteur in Senegal and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa were the only two laboratories in Africa that had coronavirus testing capacity.

This institute trained staff from dozens of other countries on how to test for Covid and by April, 43 countries in the African continent were able to diagnose coronavirus.

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