by Jean-Jacques Cornish
And then there was one.
On the last day of April, Comoran President Azali Assoumani announced that a 50 year old compatriot has contracted COVID 19.
That leaves Lesotho as the only African country free of coronavirus.
The infected Comoran had been in contact with a French-Comoran national with a history of travel to France.
Authorities are at full stretch ascertaining who the infected man has been in contact with.
A nighttime curfew has been imposed. Assoumani says he has not implemented a tougher lockdown because the majority of his one million people live off informal earnings.
Large gathering are prohibited and Mosques were ordered closed. Nevertheless in the holy month of Ramadan people congregated around the time of prayers and police were moved in to disperse them.
The immediate reaction from the Moroni government mirrors that of other African countries that closed their borders and ordered populations to stay at home immediately COVID 19 cases were detected.
So far this has held at bay the viral onslaught predicated for Africa by the World Health Organization.
Nevertheless the UN health body persists that Africa, with hundreds of millions crowded into informal housing settlements and notorious weak healthcare infrastructures, is in danger of becoming the COVID 19 nightmare.
Among the reasons for Africa staying behind the curve is the fact that international correspondents based in capitals like Johannesburg, Nairobi and Addis Ababa have tended to stay put – in their countries if not their capitals – because of the border closures.
They have reported diligently on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s success in handing off mass infections thanks to draconian lockdown regulations.
But they have not been able to answer why other must poorer countries have much lower infection rates.
Is it climactic conditions? Coronavirus spread through Europe, China and the United States in the flu season i.e. the winter months. It has been a warm summer in the southern hemisphere.
Is it African countries experience in dealing with highly infectious diseases like EBOLA, malaria, tuberculosis, measles and SARS?
Is the tuberculosis vaccine BCG administered to African children shortly after birth effective against COVID 19.
Is it the youthfulness of the African population and the growing evidence that, deadly as it might be to the elderly and the medically compromised, COVID 19 barely affects the youth?
Is it – and this is quite terrifying – because African countries have simply not been equipped to count the number of infections?
Burundi, which came into the game very late, made this admission.through its Health Minister Thadée Ndikumana
To each of these, honest observers must say what any responsible journalists covering the pandemic should say. We simply don’t know.