Africa could see 300,000 coronavirus deaths this year

A woman watches as the South African National Defence Forces members patrol the street in Diepsloot informal settlement, north of Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, April 16, 2020. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the lockdown by an extra two weeks in a continuing effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
A woman watches as the South African National Defence Forces members patrol the street in Diepsloot informal settlement, north of Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, April 16, 2020. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the lockdown by an extra two weeks in a continuing effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JOHANNESBURG – Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus this year even under the best-case scenario, according to a new report released Friday that cites modeling from Imperial College London.

Under the worst-case scenario with no interventions against the virus, Africa could see 3.3 million deaths and 1.2 billion infections, the report by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa said.

Even with “intense social distancing.” under the best-case scenario the continent could see more than 122 million infections, the report said.

Any of the scenarios would overwhelm Africa’s largely fragile and underfunded health systems, experts have warned. Under the best-case scenario, $44 billion would be needed for testing, personal protective equipment and treatment, the report said, citing UNECA estimates. The worst-case scenario would cost $446 billion.

The continent as of Friday had more than 18,000 confirmed virus cases, but experts have said Africa is weeks behind Europe in the pandemic and the rate of increase has looked alarmingly similar.

The new report is the most detailed public projection yet for coronavirus infections and deaths in Africa, where more than 1.3 billion people are bracing for the pandemic.

Poverty, crowded urban conditions and widespread health problems make Africa “particularly susceptible” to the virus, the U.N. report said. “Of all the continents Africa has the highest prevalence of certain underlying conditions, like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.”

On Thursday, a World Health Organization official said one projection over the next six months shows more than 10 million severe cases of the virus.