New IHME COVID-19 Forecasts for Sub Saharan Africa Find Mask

|Aug 11|magazine17 min read

Deaths Could Range from 85,688 to 180,273, Depending on Prevention Measures

South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe most at-risk of high numbers of deaths

Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC: 'Many thousands of deaths can be prevented'

SEATTLE, Aug. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In new COVID-19 projections for sub Saharan Africa, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington forecasts that nearly universal adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing mandates in hard-hit countries could prevent up to 73,085 deaths in the region by December 1.

Even in this best-case scenario, the pandemic would still take a heavy toll on the region, with an estimated total of 85,688 COVID-19 deaths by December (up from 15,000 deaths in mid-July). If governments instead continue to relax social distancing measures and mask-wearing is not widely practiced, total deaths by December 1 could rise to 180,273. 

Near universal adherence to mask-wearing and other prevention measures could reduce the death toll to 85,688 total deaths by December 1. However, if people ignore such efforts, IHME forecasts 158,773 deaths.

"It is encouraging that in many sub-Saharan African countries, early mandates to practice social distancing and limit travel mitigated the spread of COVID-19," said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. "These new projections suggest such mandates must continue to play a critical role, and that people in all countries should wear masks regularly. As we have seen in the United States, the price of loosening these mitigation efforts prematurely could be significant increases in new cases and deaths."

IHME's modeling of the COVID-19 pandemic draws on reporting from African ministries of health as well as data characterizing the virus's spread from countries around the world. The projections were produced in consultation with the Africa CDC, an arm of the African Union.

"These data provide an additional set of projections that governments can take into consideration in their decision-making process on how best to protect lives," said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC. "Many thousands of deaths can be prevented by continuing to encourage correct, widespread, consistent mask use, social distancing, and careful people movement. We at the Africa CDC are working closely and collaboratively with heads of state, ministers of health, and others to provide counsel on how to navigate this epidemic, while seeking to minimize the economic and social consequences."

According to IHME's projections, the largest numbers of deaths are likely to occur in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe (see table below).

Projected Total COVID-19 Deaths by December 1



Scenario 1: 

Social distancing mandates continue to ease

Scenario 2: 

Mandates are re-imposed for 6 weeks in countries where daily death rate exceeds 8 per million

Scenario 3: 

Mandates are re-imposed for 6 weeks in countries where daily death rate exceeds 8 per million AND face mask usage rapidly increases to 95% starting now

Angola

273 (range of 142 to 559)

273 (142 to 559)

194 (121 to 343)

Benin

816 (38 to 6600)

816 (38 to 6600)

98 (38 to 431)

Burkina Faso

55 (55 to 55)

55 (55 to 55)

55 (55 to 55)

Cameroon

459 (402 to 625)

459 (402 to 625)

425 (401 to 469)

Cape Verde

27 (25 to 31)

27 (25 to 31)

27 (25 to 31)

Central African Republic

726 (63 to 5054)

726 (63 to 5054)

251 (63 to 1781)

Chad

74 (74 to 74)

74 (74 to 74)

74 (74 to 74)

Comoros

7 (7 to 7)

7 (7 to 7)

7 (7 to 7)

Congo

95 (61 to 266)

95 (61 to 266)

71 (61 to 112)

Côte d'Ivoire

421 (155 to 1,057)

421 (155 to 1,057)

138 (119 to 182)

Democratic Republic of the Congo

496 (286 to 1,162)

496 (286 to 1,162)

284 (252 to 351)

Djibouti

61 (60 to 64)

61 (60 to 64)

61 (60 to 64)

Eswatini

718 (291 to 1,315)

718 (291 to 1,315)

523 (200 to 1,057)

Ethiopia

38,081 (5,119 to 124,801)

38,081 (5,119 to 124,801)

13,603 (1,899 to 60,961)

Gabon

151 (54 to 988)

151 (54 to 988)

73 (54 to 230)

Gambia

2,432 (21 to 4,399)

1,627 (21 to 4,088)

998 (18 to 3,740)

Ghana

1,822 (345 to 9,391)

1,822 (345 to 9,391)

469 (246 to 1,456)

Guinea

313 (56 to 1,444)

313 (56 to 1,444)

100 (55 to 296)

Guinea-Bissau

27 (26 to 27)

27 (26 to 27)

27 (26 to 27)

Kenya

16,510 (1,784 to 51,198)

16,510 (1,784 to 51,198)

5,124 (782 to 18,497)

Liberia

178 (73 to 887)

178 (73 to 887)

82 (73 to 115)

Madagascar

6,689 (756 to 21,709)

6,689 (756 to 21,709)

4,477 (502 to 15,837)

Malawi

1,822 (177 to 8,298)

1,822 (177 to 8,298)

613 (165 to 2,459)

Mali

128 (127 to 131)

128 (127 to 131)

128 (127 to 130)

Mauritania

159 (156 to 166)

159 (156 to 166)

158 (156 to 163)

Mozambique

75 (12 to 766)

75 (12 to 766)

17 (12 to 62)

Namibia

1,938 (39 to 5,299)

1,205 (38 to 4,467)

1,019 (30 to 4,153)

Niger

71 (70 to 72)

71 (70 to 72)

71 (70 to 71)

Nigeria

1,724 (1,046 to 3,543)

1,724 (1,046 to 3,543)

1,107 (979 to 1,424)

Rwanda

5 (5 to 6)

5 (5 to 6)

5 (5 to 6)

São Tomé and Príncipe

80 (16 to 322)

80 (16 to 322)

36 (16 to 159)

Senegal

10,949 (2,555 to 24,901)

6,878 (1,569 to 20,360)

2,904 (736 to 11,202)

Sierra Leone

68 (67 to 69)

68 (67 to 69)

68 (67 to 69)

Somalia

92 (92 to 92)

92 (92 to 92)

92 (92 to 92)

South Africa

41,391 (25,256 to 62,555)

41,391 (25,563 to 62,555)

31,529 (19,936 to 46,944)

South Sudan

459 (48 to 4,156)

459 (48 to 4,156)

103 (48 to 630)

Togo

39 (22 to 146)

39 (22 to 146)

28 (22 to 38)

Uganda

40,682 (124 to 69,644)

24,782 (41 to 68,297)

17,958 (13 to 65,906)

United Republic of Tanzania

6,552 (1,408 to 19,977)

6,552 (1,408 to 19,977)

613 (359 to 1,041)

Zambia

1,439 (260 to 6,389)

1,439 (260 to 6,389)

540 (220 to 1,809)

Zimbabwe

2,169 (130 to 10,661)

2,169 (130 to 10,661)

1,540 (122 to 7,849)

IHME's analysis highlights the potential impact of effective prevention measures. For example, if correct mask use increases to 95% and social distancing mandates are re-imposed when daily deaths exceed 8 per million, South Africa's December 1 death toll could be reduced from 41,402 (range of 25,263 to 62,575) to 31,529 (19,936 to 46,944).

IHME has been issuing COVID-19 forecasts since March and is one of the world's leading modelers of the pandemic. Today's projections for sub-Saharan Africa are based on IHME's latest models and include health system data, such as hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and ventilator needs, as well as infections, deaths, and prevalence of antibodies. Other factors include estimates of testing per capita, mobility, social distancing mandates, mask use, social contact rates, and pneumonia seasonality. Forecasts are based on the most recent available data and may change over time as new data become available.

Murray noted that the quality of data reporting systems in many sub-Saharan African nations falls below that of other countries in their fight against COVID-19. Thus, the range of death projections is greater than those of previous IHME forecasts. In a small number of countries, the available data are not yet sufficient to produce effective projections.

"Given the limitations of our current forecasts for sub-Saharan Africa, it is important for health officials and policymakers to plan for the upper range of COVID-19 estimates, while also insisting on proven methods to mitigate infections, such as mask-wearing and social distancing," Murray said.

(Note: The total for sub-Saharan Africa excludes Botswana, Burundi, Eritrea, Lesotho, Namibia, Tanzania, and Uganda; IHME currently lacks estimates for those countries.)

The new death projections and other information, such as hospital resources usage, are available at https://covid19.healthdata.org.

IHME wishes to warmly acknowledge the support of these and others who have made our COVID-19 estimation efforts possible. Thank you.

About the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington School of Medicine that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world's most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. IHME is committed to transparency and makes this information widely available so that policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions on allocating resources to improve population health.

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