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Controlling COVID-19 will carry devastating economic costs for developing countries

Date: 02/06/2020

Author(s): Borja Santos Porras

Publication: The Conversation

Many African countries quickly closed their borders and imposed lockdown. This meant that, until the beginning of May, no African country had more than 10,000 people affected, with South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria being the hardest hit.

Nevertheless, weak health systems expose these countries to high health risks. According to the World Health Organization, the US had 170,000 respirators in mid-March. A month later, 41 African countries together had fewer than 2,000, and ten had none.

The same is true for intensive care beds (Southern Sudan had less than 200), lack of health protection equipment, a shortage of testing kits, low number of doctors per capita, no training in intensive care and difficulties in accessing the international markets for personal protective equipment and other health materials. Each of which makes these countries particularly vulnerable to the virus.

On top of this, isolation measures threaten the food security of millions of people. This means that even if the epidemic is successfully managed at the health level, its impact on economies—and people—will be devastating.