Over one million coronavirus cases and over 23,000 deaths have been recorded across the continent since February.
In its latest forecasts, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said the death toll could rise to between 85,688 (best case scenario), and 180,273 (worst case scenario) by December 1 depending on measures implemented by governments.
The global health research organisation said at least 73,085 coronavirus-related deaths could be prevented on the continent if 95% of its population adhere to mask-wearing and other prevention measures.
The largest numbers of deaths are projected to occur in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
IHME said the projections exclude Botswana, Burundi, Eritrea, Lesotho, Namibia, Tanzania, and Uganda as it currently lacks estimates for those countries.
The forecast said Nigeria could prevent over 600 coronavirus-related deaths if an overwhelming majority of Nigerians adhere to non-pharmaceutical preventive measures.
A total of 47,290 cases and 956 deaths have already been recorded in the continent’s most populous country as of August 12.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, warned Nigerians on Monday, August 10 that the death toll should be a wake up call to take the virus a bit more seriously.
“The figures show that Nigeria is also sadly approaching the symbolic 1,000 number of fatalities, a grim reality that should be a wake up call for us,” he said.
Last week, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, for the third time, extended the second phase of eased lockdown for another four weeks.
The PTF lamented that one of the most significant reasons for the extensions is the failure of Nigerians to adhere to safety measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“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 Director, Dr Christopher Murray, said.
The projections were produced in consultation with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention whose director, Dr John Nkengasong, said the data will provide an additional set of projections that governments can take into consideration in their decision-making process on how best to protect lives.
“Many thousands of deaths can be prevented by continuing to encourage correct, widespread, consistent mask use, social distancing, and careful people movement,” he said.
IHME’s modeling of the pandemic draws on reporting from African ministries of health as well as data characterising the virus’s spread from countries around the world.
The projections are based on the institute’s latest models and include health system data, such as hospitalisations, 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.