“Covid-19 will be horrible in the developing world. My heart is in Africa. I am worried. The only reason why the reported cases of the coronavirus disease in Africa is low now is most likely because there have not been wide testing of people. The disease is going to bite hard on the continent. I see dead bodies in the streets of Africa,” said Melinda Gates the Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a Televised interview on CNN in April this year.
Following these “Controversial” utterances, Melinda received an avalanche of condemnation and criticism from conservative Africa as they found her predictions not only to be inaccurate but the work of evil. The World Bishops’ Council (WBC), Africa even issued a statement, rejecting the prediction saying Africa will overcome COVID – 19 with much less casualties against what some major developed nations have experienced.
Outspoken Nigerian politician also took to his social media platforms to lampoon Melinda for her predictions, describing it as the agenda of the devil and a “Horrendous vision from a horrendous lady with a horrendous husband. We reject it and we return it to sender! The agenda of Satan for Africa shall not stand. Those that have dug a pit for us shall fall into that pit themselves”
Three months after Melinda’s prediction, Africa seem to be gradually moving towards realizing a COVID-19 calamity of biblical proportions could be silently unfolding.
At the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, it appeared as if somehow, somebody up above was smiling upon us. For some reason, the wave appeared to be avoiding us.
According to the John Hopkins University tally and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) Confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa as at July 17 were 683,914, recovered: 362,891 while Confirmed coronavirus deaths were 14,682. Globally, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc amidst indications that 14.3 million cases have been reported worldwide as well as 602 000 deaths.
So far, South Africa has reported 351 000 infections and 4,948 coronavirus deaths, surpassing Egypt which has recorded 87,172 infections and 4,251 deaths. Egypt and South Africa have reported the highest Covid-19 positive cases on the continent.
Even though the epicenter of the COVID-19 in Africa at the moment is still South Africa, other nations such as Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, to mention but a few seem to be recording increased cases and deaths on a daily basis. Majority of cases especially in Zimbabwe are coming from South Africa as thousands of Zimbabweans troop back home due to economic hardships in neighboring South Africa which have been brought about by the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
To show the gravity of the Covid-19 situation in Africa, the South African government has already started digging thousands of graves in readiness for an anticipated increase in Covid-19 related deaths as infections spiral out of control as the country nears 250,000 infections and has the highest number of cases in Africa.
Zimbabwe on the other had recorded 1478 cumulative COVID-19 cases as at July 18, 2020 according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care. The past two weeks have been the darkest for Zimbabwe as the Southern African country has been recording COVID-19 related deaths on a daily basis since the 6th of July 2020. To date, the country has 25 deaths, 1014 active cases and 439 recoveries. A local member of the Zimbabwe COVID-19 task-force, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya has warned that Zimbabwe might need to dig more graves as its darkest moment was approaching.
It is without doubt that majority of African countries are not testing enough, left for South Africa which has already been applauded by global health players as having some of the best testing and tracing mechanisms in as much as COVID-19 is concerned. However, the same cannot be said for other African countries whose health systems are currently under intensive Care (ICU).
Why should Africa Worry?
So why would Melinda Gates predict a COVID-19 Armageddon for Africa when majority of cases and deaths have been recorded in the United States of America, The United Kingdom, Brazil and other countries in the developed world? According to Gates, Africa was not testing enough and for this reason, more cases would go undetected, leading to a spike in community transmissions, in the process burdening the already damaged health systems. Unlike Africa, most developed nations seem to be finding solutions to their COVID-19 problems while some already lifted lockdown restrictions and life has returned to normal. For Africa however, our problems seem just to be starting and the picture is already gloomy.
- Low Testing Levels:
Malawi was recently reported to be fast running out of COVID-19 testing kits and the remaining kits will only be used to test people who show symptoms of Covid-19. For a country like Malawi for example whose COVID-19 infection rate stands at 2, 907 cases and 59 deaths, running out pf COVID-19 at this juncture is certainly not an option considering the country is emerging from a phase where COVID-19 issues were temporarily suspended and focus was put on the run-off elections. During Malawi’s run up period to the elections, social distancing, the wearing of masks was shelved for a bit as every soul focused energy on removing the former President. The President of Malawi Lazarus Chakwera has called for prayer and fasting in the face of a looming COVID-19 disaster. In Zimbabwe, when the COVID-19 was first reported, at times the country would go for days without even recording a single case owing to the low testing levels. To date, Zimbabwe has conducted 100 376 tests since the onset of the pandemic in the country. Increased testing is somehow proving that the country has more cases than imagined by each day.
- Lack of Political Will
The lack of seriousness and consistency by African leaders is also cause for concern and could lead to a serious spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths. In Zimbabwe, key political leaders are going about their business as if COVID-19 respects political office. Political rallies disguised as charity handouts events are being held with little or not social distancing being observed. The country is also headed for a massive political protest on July 31, 2020. This could lead to an increase in COVID-19 community infections. In Madagascar, the President Andry Rajoelina publicly announced that his country had somehow found a cure to the COVID-19. However, recent events have forced the Southern African island to impose strict lockdown restrictions as COVID-19 rears its ugly head across the country. The country has 6, 848 COVID-19 cases and 55 deaths.
- Religious and Political Entanglement
Most African countries for some reason believe they can just pray COVID-19 away. Without being blasphemous or trying to undermine the authority of God, COVID-19 is real and requires scientists and medical experts to take charge and lead the way in finding a cure to supports God’s will. In the meantime, everyone regardless of religious affiliation should maintain physical distancing and practice what the World Health Organization (WHO) has prescribed. To appease religious leaders however, many African governments have allowed churches to gather in the midst of the pandemic. In Zimbabwe, the Apostolic sects were recently gathered in their hundreds in Manicaland. This is despite the fact the country has tightened its lockdown restrictions following a recent spike in cases.
- Lockdown Fatigue and economic demands
In as much as many Africans have accepted that COVID-19 is real. The economic quandaries of many will push them to defy lockdown restrictions in search of an income and to put food on the table. In most African countries, unemployment is very high and many rely on hand to mount ventures for survival. In the absence of government support, many still face the predicament of choosing between staying at home and avoid COVID-19 and to go out there to make money and risk infection.
Even though deaths and infections on the African continent are still less compared to those recorded in the United States and other countries, obtaining events seem to be pointing towards a disaster and only time will tel whether Melinda Gates was right about bodies littering the streets of Africa.
In the meantime, maintain physical distancing, always wash your hands, wear your mask always. Avoid touching your face and should you suspect that you might have contracted the virus, call the toll free numbers your government has provided for you.