According to the World Health Organization's situation report for March 12th, the African region has only recorded 51 cases of the Covid-19 virus, and only one of these cases has been fatal. The disease has so far only been recorded in 9 of the 54 African countries, with only three of these countries reporting more than a couple of cases.

Given the wider spread of the disease in practically every other region, and that the African population is around 1.3 billion, this appears to be a clear anomaly.

What reasons are there for this apparent inconsistency with expectations?

  • This is a question about virology, not a question about politics. I migrated the question from Politics SE to Medical Sciences SE.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 13:26
  • 1
    I believe the WHO has alluded to this answer in their press briefings but I'm guessing it has to do with lack of widespread testing for COVID-19 specifically in the African countries. The healthcare systems of many African nations is generally poor, and going to see the doctor is not often done due to mistrust of the system and some stigma Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 14:09
  • 2
    I'm not a medical professional, but as far as I know covid-19 is a virus and those are, as far as I know, vulnerable to heat, something which many parts of Africa possess in abundance. The combination of poor testing and plenty of sunlight killing it anyways might be the reason why no real spread has been observed.
    – user17811
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 14:45
  • do africans travel abroad as much as people in places more affected?
    – dandavis
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 19:24
  • 2
    Most statistics would cover the number of reported cases, not the number of actual cases. The ratio between reported and actual cases depends on the likelihood of patients being tested.
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


Health care in many sub-Saharan African countries is extremely sparse. As an example, Sierra Leone has less than 250 doctors for the entire country. As a result, it is likely that cases in that and similar countries are grossly under-reported.


Additional reason(s): a part of Africa is in the southern hemisphere. The flu season starts there next month. South Africa has imposed heavy handed measures in the hope of preventing an outbreak, e.g.:

Of course, there have been mistakes, and worse. The police and army have, at times, acted with thuggish abandon in their attempts to enforce the three-week-long lockdown, humiliating, beating, and even shooting civilians on the streets of the commercial capital, Johannesburg, and elsewhere. [...]

But overall, as South Africans mark their first week under one of the strictest lockdowns introduced anywhere in the world - no jogging outside, no sales of alcohol or cigarettes, no dog-walking, no leaving home except for essential trips and prison or heavy fines for law-breaking - there is an argument to be made that a government so often attacked as corrupt and inefficient, and a private sector so often seen as aloof and greedy, are rising to meet what is widely anticipated to be the greatest challenge this young democracy has ever seen.

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