The coronavirus pandemic could kill nearly 2,00,000 people over the next 12 months and could "smoulder" in "transmission hotspots" in Africa for several years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On Thursday, May 7, the WHO warned that the novel coronavirus could claim between 83,000 and 190,000 lives in Africa in the first year of the deadly outbreak.

A study released by the health organization this week had made the shocking prediction that Africa could report between 29 million and 44 million COVID-19 infections in the first year of the pandemic, if containment measures are not implemented. The organization added that this "would overwhelm the available medical capacity in much of Africa."

"While Covid-19 likely won't spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots," said the director of the World Health Organization's Africa region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

"Covid-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region. We need to test, trace, isolate and treat," Moeti added. The study included 47 countries in WHO's African Region with a total population of 1 billion people.

The news follows an announcement from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa last month, warning that even with intense social distancing, Africa could see nearly 123 million coronavirus cases this year and 300,000 deaths.

Disaster waiting to happen

In Africa, more than 51,000 people have been infected and the death toll currently stands at 2,012. However, because of low testing numbers, these figures might only represent a fraction of the actual number of cases in the continent.

Experts have warned that the continent is uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic and the numbers are going to witness a sharp increase given Africa's High rates of malnutrition and poverty, underfunded healthcare systems, high numbers of HIV infections and fragile food supplies, as pointed out by The Telegraph.

Coronavirus in Africa
Coronavirus in Africa africanarguments,org

Africa has only nine intensive care unit beds per million people and is a disaster waiting to happen. A vast majority of African leaders have been quick to identify the threat of COVID-19 and implement emergency measures such as closing borders and cutting off international travel when there were only a handful of cases in their countries, said the report.

Although these preventive measures have slowed down the spread of the virus, coronavirus cases are now increasing steadily.