...that do not outweigh the causes of concern
Nevertheless, a number of factors inherent to the African continent constitute obstacles to the implementation of certain preventive measures on the same scale as in Europe or Asia.
- Social distancing is complex on a continent where 70% of the urban population - approximately 200 million people - live in overcrowded slums.
- In addition, 40% of Africans live in water-scarce environments, making simple (and effective) preventive measures such as regular hand washing difficult.
- Finally, containment measures that prevent citizens from going to work could jeopardize the survival of many, when half of the continent’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, with no savings or assets, and the informal sector accounts for 85.8% of jobs.
The likelihood of the virus spreading on a large scale on the continent has crystallized the fears of many observers, who believe that African countries’ healthcare systems – albeit at different levels – are not equipped to cope with the crisis. They lack resources both in terms of medical personnel and equipment, and especially equipment that is specifically needed to treat patients suffering from this virus. This is the case with respirators, "which are counted in dozens for millions of people". A situation all the more distressful considering the continent is still fighting diseases that can be treated but remain lethal in many cases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria. The burden that Covid-19 will place on healthcare systems could hamper the treatment of these other diseases, and the effects of Covid-19 combined to such diseases or malnutrition remain unclear. These factors raise concerns that case-fatality rates in Africa may be higher than elsewhere, despite the youthfulness of its population.