News & Information


COVID-19: By flattening the curve, we shall overcome

In epidemiology, the idea of slowing a virus' spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time is known as “flattening the curve”. It explains why so many countries are implementing “self-isolation and social distancing” guidelines.

In epidemiology, the idea of slowing a virus' spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time is known as “flattening the curve”. It explains why so many countries are implementing “self-isolation and social distancing” guidelines.

In the case of the new coronavirus, the pandemic responsible for infecting hundreds of thousands of people in more than 170 countries worldwide with the disease, called COVID-19, the “curve” refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time. The curve takes on different shapes, depending on the virus's infection rate. It could be a steep curve, in which the virus spreads exponentially (that is, case counts keep doubling at a consistent rate), and the total number of cases skyrockets to its peak within a few weeks. Infection curves with a steep rise also have a steep fall; after the virus infects pretty much everyone who can be infected, case numbers begin to drop exponentially, too. 

The faster the infection curve rises, the quicker the local health care system gets overloaded beyond its capacity to treat people. As it was happening in Italy, more and more new patients may be forced to go without ICU beds, and more and more hospitals may run out of the basic supplies they need to respond to the outbreak. 

A flatter curve, on the other hand, assumes the same number of people ultimately get infected, but over a longer period of time. A slower infection rate means a less stressed health care system, fewer hospital visits on any given day and fewer sick people being turned away.

Flattening the curve is every one’s responsibility

As there is currently no vaccine or specific medication to treat COVID-19, and because testing is so limited in in most countries especially in African Countries, the only way to flatten the curve is through collective action: Wash hands frequently, Self-isolate (when having COVID-19 symptoms or simply sick) and Social-distancing (essentially, avoiding other people whenever possible) right away. 

According to UNCTAD’s Richard Kozul-Wright, Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, “apart from the tragic human consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, the economic uncertainty it has sparked will likely cost the global economy $1 trillion in 2020”.

Mr. Kozul-Wright warned that few countries were likely to be left unscathed by the outbreak’s financial ramifications. There’s a degree of anxiety now that’s well beyond the health scares which are very serious and concerning”, He added.

To counter these fears, “Governments need to spend at this point in time to prevent the kind of meltdown that could be even more damaging than the one that is likely to take place over the course of the year”, UNCTAD’s Kozul-Wright insisted.

Though Africa remains one of the regions with the fewest cases, the number of countries affected are increasing. The reason why most Governments have already started to lay strategies for coping with the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the relatively low number of Corona Virus cases on the continent so far is good news, African policymakers should not be complacent. They should instead use this window of opportunity to take decisive steps to protect all the citizens and economies from the pandemic.

To achieve these goals, they are undertaking a three-step approach: (1) contain the spread of the virus; (2) swiftly treat identified cases; and (3) cushion the economy from the effects of the pandemic. If these measures are implemented, the human casualties will be limited, and Africa’s economic growth will decline by around 1 percentage point or possibly less. If, on the other hand, the measures to contain the pandemic are not swift, the number of deaths will soar, and economic growth could drop by 2.1 percentage points or more.

In early March, the World Bank announced it would commit USD 12 billion in aid to developing countries to help them to deal with the impact of the virus and limit its spread. The Bank said it would prioritise the most at-risk countries. The World Bank also introduced a pandemic bond in 2017, which, as part of the Pandemic Emergency Finance Facility intended to provide money to help developing countries in the event of a pandemic reaching certain thresholds and conditions. So far, these criteria have not been met and the bond has not paid out.

Key African Sectors to be affected by COVID-19

According to the ratings Agency, Fitch, the Coronavirus outbreak will obviously have a downside risk for short term growth for sub-Saharan Africa growth particularly in key sectors namely; Shipping and Trade, Industrials, Manufacturing and Transportation, Infrastructure, Capital raising and Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), Financial Institutions, Local Markets, Insurance, Energy and Mining, Health care and Pharmaceuticals, Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), Tourism and Hospitality, Consumer goods and retail, etc.

There may be roaming anxiety and uncertainties, but there is hope if African governments continue spending towards mitigating expected negative impacts from COVID-19 on their economies. We shall overcome. 

comments powered by Disqus