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Coronavirus will play out very differently in world's poorest nations


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(courtesy: New Scientist, 03 Apr 2020)

Coronavirus will play out very differently in world's poorest nations

(courtesy: New Scientist, 03 Apr 2020)

The new coronavirus may prove disastrous for the world’s poorest people, including those living in slums and refugee camps.

Cases were slower to appear in low-income economies, but almost nowhere has escaped the pandemic. Pakistan has been the worst hit country in south Asia, with 2291 cases and troops deployed across cities to enforce a national lockdown. Elsewhere, Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, has reported 16 cases.

In Africa, most cases have been in relatively affluent South Africa and Egypt, but other countries are seeing rises too. Burkina Faso now has more than 250 cases, Senegal 190 and Ghana 195. Across the continent, there are now more than 7000 cases.

The impact of the virus in many low-income economies is likely to be very different to rich ones such as the UK, says Azra Ghani at Imperial College London.

Demographics are one big difference. The world’s poorest typically live in households containing more people, with all generations living together in daily contact, in contrast to countries like the UK where older people are effectively already socially distanced from younger ones. As a result, infections are likely to be spread more evenly across all age groups. “That in a sense makes everybody more at risk,” says Ghani.

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