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Climatic conditions and COVID-19 spread: Is Africa different?

Climatic conditions and COVID-19 spread: Is Africa different?

In Asia, Europe and South America, the role of atmospheric conditions in aiding or abating the growth curve of COVID-19 has been established. However, there is growing controversy about whether climatic conditions induce or influence COVID-19 in Africa, where climatic conditions remain surbatic. With a predominantly relatively warmer temperature, Africa differs from other regions of the world and has recorded far fewer cases than Asians, Europeans, and Americans (North and South). Establishing a clear line of thought on the influence of meteorological indices in the growth of coronavirus diseases in Africa becomes essential.

While the search for the cure of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) agonisingly continues, social distancing and practice of good hygiene have been prescribed by researchers, epidemiologists and clinical scientists as physical preventive measures to abate human-to-human transmission of the disease. In other related findings, scientists suggested that the pathogens from the virus can survive in the air for up to three (3) hours, for twenty-four (24) hours on paper facades, up to four (4) hours on copper materials, and about three (3) to four (4) days on metals, stainless and latex (plastics or rubbers) made materials.

What is not clear is the meteorological conditions that precede these findings. Ample cross-border findings have leaned credence to an inverse relationship between humidity and survival of aerosolised coronavirus using their regional data. In other climes, the epidemic intensity of COVID-19 was found to reduce with higher temperatures. Apart from most of these studies that have been done using Chinese meteorological indices, Africa remains the warmest region on earth, with 60 percent of its entire land surface consisting of drylands and deserts (Africa: Environmental Atlas, 2008).

The climatic conditions are tropical and subarctic on their peak conditions. The northern part of Africa is primarily desert or arid. Central and Southern Africa contains dense rainforest (jungles) with broad savanna plains. Between the North, Central and Southern Africa, a convergence hosting vegetations (Sahel and Steppe). The regional meteorological conditions in Africa need to be considered in the debate of temperature and COVID-19 structures, features, risk factors and containment.

Apart from some North Africa countries (Algeria, Morroco, Egypt etc.), and South Africa, a significant part of Africa has recorded far lesser confirmed cases and attributable deaths of COVID-19. In Asia, Europe and South America, the role of atmospheric conditions in aiding or abating the growth curve of COVID-19 has been established.

Read also: Covid-19 vaccines demand in Africa still higher than supply – PERC

Ample consideration should be devoted to the relationship between temperature and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and attributable deaths vis-à-vis the geographical divide based on average weather and atmospheric conditions in African cities. By unravelling the dynamic relationship between regional meteorological conditions and its plausibility in abating the spread of corona-virus and attendant fatalities in Africa, the overarching aim of establishing the relevance of meteorological indices in abating coronavirus spread and fatalities in Africa can be advanced.

The intricacies of these unobserved meteorological factors in the regional weather conditions in Africa humid and non-humid environments for the survival of pathogens from the virus could have culminated into the misalignment of the continent recovery strategy. With the sudden arrival of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 causing large-scale disruption and set back to the success recorded in the fight against this public health crisis, relevant stakeholders need a more cautious approach in the fight against COVID-19 and its disruptive influence on human life.

As new COVID-19 variants such as Omicron emerge, it’s more important than ever that world leaders address the triple emergency of COVID, conflict and climate change that is wreaking havoc in Africa. Just five of Africa’s 54 nations are projected to hit a 40 percent COVID-19 vaccination coverage target by the end of 2021. At the current pace, Africa still faces a 275 million shortfall of COVID-19 vaccine doses to reach that goal.

The Omicron variant and the COVID-19 pandemic have only compounded people’s suffering, and it will take more than widespread access to vaccines to address the ongoing crises. “While COVID vaccinations can help stem the virus, the pandemic’s impact on rising food prices and overburdening health systems is worsening and requires broader solutions beyond vaccine donations”. Further scientific investigation of climate and COVID-19 spread might present new and insightful evidence that could redefine policy and practice towards the containment of the virus and subsequent economic recovery.

Dr. Ibrahim A. Adekunle is a lecturer at the Babcock Business School (BBS), Babcock University (BU), Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria.