Zambian Covid-19 Cases May Have Been 92 Times More Than Reported

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Coronavirus cases in Zambia from March to July may have been 92 times higher than official statistics showed, according to estimates from a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal.

Researchers tested people for infection in six districts across the southern African nation in July, and used the results to estimate a total of 454,708 cases for the period. That compared with the government’s official number of 4,917 infections.

The study suggests the pandemic affected many African nations far worse than was reported, largely because of a low level of testing. A Nigerian survey found that almost one in four of the 21 million people living in Lagos may have been infected with the disease, well above the estimate of about 160,000 for the whole country.

Still, most of the cases in Zambia were asymptomatic and hospitals in the country weren’t under strain during the period of the study. That could be because of Zambia’s young population, according to the report, dated March 9.

The research was carried out during the first wave of the outbreak in Zambia, when recorded cases were relatively low. Like most countries in the region, the subsequent wave spurred by a variant first identified in South Africa, was worse.

Zambia, which has officially recorded about 83,000 infections and 1,137 deaths, is yet to announce plans to vaccinate its population.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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