A Covid-19 antibodies survey in Nigeria suggests that four million people in Lagos state alone have had the virus – a number higher than has been officially recorded for the whole of Africa.
The official Covid-19 figure for Africa’s most populous nation is 153,000 cases with 1,862 deaths but the study found that the numbers are actually much higher.
The study was carried out on 10,000 people from four Nigerian states to estimate the extent of coronavirus in the nation. It was conducted before a second wave began in early December.
The findings of the seroprevalence survey, carried out in September and October by Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), are staggering, reports the BBC from Lagos.
The results indicate that 20% of those tested in the state of Lagos, and two other states had been infected. More men were infected than women and people living in urban areas were particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus, the study said.
As high as the estimated percentages are, the head of the NCDC interprets the numbers as showing that a large proportion of Nigeria’s 186 million inhabitants are still at risk from the virus.
“At least 80% of the population are still susceptible to the virus which makes the vaccination efforts we are about to start in Nigeria even more important,” said Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the NCDC.
Experts say having an accurate picture of who is dying, from what and where, is crucial when it comes to allocating resources and funding.
The number of positive cases and fatalities from coronavirus in Africa could be higher than reported because of low testing and poor registration of deaths.
Nigeria is among countries on the continent that do not have a compulsory system to register deaths, a BBC investigation found.
Only Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Príncipe, Seychelles and Mauritius have a universal death registration system.