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African Academics Launch Initiative To Collate COVID-19 Data Across Africa

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Africa was reported in Egypt on 14 February. The patient was a Chinese national who had recently arrived in Cairo. As of 27 March, more than 2,400 cases have been reported across Africa. South Africa, Egypt and Algeria have the highest number of cases – 927, 495, and 367 cases, respectively. Locally we have 5 cases so far. Most African countries are reporting new cases every day.

Earlier this year, a group of epidemiologists led by Dr. Moritz Kraemer at Oxford University started collating data on the epidemic in China. This effort has grown to include contributions from around the world.

As part of this global effort, Dr Nsoesie and Dr Marivate have put together a team of more than twenty volunteers from across Africa to develop an open dataset of cases as they are reported.

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The dataset includes patient demographics, date of diagnosis, location, symptoms, travel history, source of information and other necessary information. The location data is at the city, town or village level, and does not include household geographical coordinates so as to preserve individuals’ privacy.

The initiative obtains the data from official sources such as the World Health Organisation, Ministries of Health and Africa CDC, as well as unofficial sources like online news sites.

These data have many uses. It can help us understand the spread of the SARS-COV-2 in Africa, epidemiological characteristics of cases and how it compares to reports in other parts of the world. The data can also be used in models to study the impact of various interventions, such as social distancing and for making recommendations on resource allocation.

For example, this dashboard developed by Dr Marivate and colleagues provides a picture of COVID-19 in South Africa, based on currently available data.

The data collation initiative is calling for more volunteers who can help in collating data. Data collation can be a tedious effort for a few people, but many contributors will make the task easier. Those interested in joining this effort can send an email to onelaine@bu.edu and also look at Github Repo for additional instructions.

The initiative is also looking to support data collection efforts by Ministries of Health (MoH) in Africa by connecting them with volunteers in Africa. Volunteers with technical and public health expertise can support the collection, organisation, and visualisation of relevant data on MoH websites.

We want to encourage everyone to follow the advice of public health experts and clinicians who are dedicating their time and lives to fighting this pandemic in Africa. Stay safe and healthy

Dr Nsoesie and Dr Marivate

The rapid increase in new cases is putting a significant burden on the health ministries and impacting the reporting of data. This is understandable because MoHs are addressing multiple challenges at this time – including tracking, testing, and quarantining cases – while implementing social distancing and other public health measures to control the local epidemics.


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