Flemish doctor sheds light on the corona pandemic in Africa

1,650 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Africa.  There are few deaths.  This may seem strange given the size of the continent, intense social life and strong contacts with China.  VRT News spoke with Dr Reginald Moreels, a humanitarian surgeon and wondered if Africa would escape the pandemic or if the disease was simply underreported.

Dr Moreels is fresh back from Congo, where he’s been working as a surgeon.  Has he got any explanation for the low numbers of confirmed cases?

“The corona outbreak did reach Africa later.  Maybe that’s due to greater resistance or the fact there is less testing.”

Dr Moreels isn’t convinced by the low figures: “I hope it’s true, but probably there are a lot more cases.  Test kits are not available, certainly not in the bush. Case numbers are probably five or ten times higher in reality.”

Prevention is important when it comes to a virus like this.  Dr Moreels is worried about this in Africa: “Social distancing, keeping a distance, is not part of African culture.  It won’t be easy to get that into people’s heads. In Congo schools are shut.  Children are playing out in the street as a result.”

Health systems too will form an enormous problem.  Dr Moreels speaks from experience:

“In the hospital in Congo where I worked in a city of 600,000 souls they have exactly two oxygen concentrators, equipment that takes oxygen out of the air and compresses it.  Electricity outages are legion.”

Dr Moreels’ sole hope is that existing medicines, e.g. what’s used against Ebola, will be effective.  Otherwise this is going to be a catastrophe.”

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