Africa's High COVID-19 Death Rates Are A Huge Concern

Patients are seen lying on hospital beds inside a temporary ward dedicated to the treatment of possible COVID-19 coronavirus patients at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on January 11, 2021

Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

Africa's High COVID-19 Death Rates Are A Huge Concern

A medical study led by two South African Professors, Bruce Biccard and Dean Gopalan, found that half of admitted COVID-19 patients died in ten different African hospitals due to lack of adequate oxygen machines and other vital resources.

A COVID-19 study conducted between May and December 2020 released findings that have cast a spotlight on the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic in Africa. Co-led by the University of Cape Town's Professor Bruce Biccard, the study shows that while testing in Africa continues to rise, an overwhelming amount of COVID-19 positive patients continue to succumb to death due to inadequate medical supplies in hospitals. The U.S and Europe are reportedly set to enter a post-COVID-19 era as their steady vaccine rollout has already commenced. The trouble, however, seems to only be starting for Africa. According to the study, 48.2 percent of patients admitted in hospitals across Africa die due to lack of oxygen and dialysis machines.

According to News24, the study showed that half of the 3140 patients admitted across 10 African hospitals passed away within 30 days of their day of admission. A 31.5 percent death rate was recorded from the countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia where oxygen machines are said to be readily available. There is admittedly a stark disparity of resources between hospitals in Africa, as compared to Europe and the U.S.

Research partner Professor Dean Gopalan from the University of KwaZulu-Natal spoke to the gendered aspect of COVID-19, stating that men faired better while African women were considered high risk because of existing medical care barriers and biases that they are subjected to. Biccard, on the other hand, highlighted the need for intensive care unit supplies and blood oxygen monitoring machines for high risk patients, especially the HIV positive or those in need of kidney dialysis. Considering that patients from the high risk populations are more severely affected by COVID-19, Biccard called out for their prioritisation.

Read: South African President Emphasises that 'Vaccine Apartheid' Must End

The COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa has been closely monitored and this week kicked off with a reported 2383 positive cases out of the 23 352 tests conducted, according to Business Tech. The 10 percent rate in positive cases has admittedly caught the attention of the Department of Health. While this past Monday's recorded 72 deaths could be considered a small number, the total number of deaths is currently at 55 975. This could change sharply, according to the latest study by the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

India, which is currently living through its harshest wave to date, is also facing a lack of oxygen supply — and subsequently recorded its highest death rates since the start of the pandemic. As South Africa enters into the winter months, concerns are rising. Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize stated that there could possibly be tighter restrictions on social gatherings and a curfew extension ahead of his meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), which took place this past Tuesday. The proceedings of the meeting have yet to be released publicly.