chopera2_YASUYOSHI CHIBAAFP via Getty Images_coronavirusafricakenya Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images

Can Africa Withstand COVID-19?

From a young population to a warm climate, some factors put Africa on a stronger footing to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak. But on a continent beset by weak health systems and preexisting conditions like HIV and tuberculosis, the risks must not be underestimated.

DURBAN – Less than five months after the first documented case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, infections exceed 340,000 globally, with nearly 15,000 deaths. This pandemic is devastating societies and economies all over the world, but Africa stands to face particularly severe and long-lasting damage.

To be sure, Africa is not suffering as much as many expected – at least not so far. Though the number of affected countries on the continent has risen to 43, the virus does not seem to be spreading as rapidly as it has elsewhere.

Some scientists think this could be partly a matter of climate. One study found that the COVID-19 virus may be less stable at higher temperatures, with the optimal temperature for transmission probably hovering around 8.72°C. Temperatures in most African countries rarely drop below 15°C. This does not mean that the COVID-19 virus cannot be transmitted in hotter climates, only that it may be easier to contain there.

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