In early 2021, the African Data Hub conceptualised the COVID-19 Resurgence Map; a tool to track potential outbreaks in new COVID-19 cases. The premise was simple: If there is a sudden jump in cases in a 7-day period, this could signal exponential growth and the possible start of a new wave. The higher the percentage change, the steeper the curve. The hope was that the tool could highlight resurgence at the start of a new wave and potentially help inform interventions or at least individual actions and precautions.
The hope was that the tool could highlight resurgence at the start of a new wave and potentially help inform interventions or at least individual actions and precautions.
The Resurgence Map’s leaderboard highlighted the ten African countries with the biggest percentage change increases and the ten with the biggest percentage decreases in the 7-day period.
At the time of the tool’s initial build, many countries were still pursuing contact-tracing and governments were still hoping to curb mass outbreaks with stringent lockdowns, limitations on the movement and interaction of people and deliberate campaigns for testing and vaccination.
The potential use and success of the Resurgence Map always relied on the assumption that the reported case numbers from testing are comprehensive, accurate and regular. This was never really the case.
The potential use and success of the Resurgence Map always relied on the assumption that the reported case numbers from testing are comprehensive, accurate and regular. This was never really the case. And as the pandemic has shifted to becoming endemic, reported case numbers have become even less accurate. The success of vaccinations in limiting hospital admissions and deaths have also contributed to an underreporting of cases. It is no longer possible to make any claims that the data can depict resurgence or predict the start of a new wave.
In 2022 it became necessary to reimagine the Resurgence Map as a tool to document the current available data. Introducing… the COVID-19 Observer. The new map and leaderboard gives an up to date overview of new cases across the continent in one screen and further interrogation of country-level data is possible by clicking through on the map or leaderboard.
At country-level, the COVID-19 Observer gives access to various comparative metrics and can be a useful tool to gain a better understanding of the pandemic at any point in time. Users can compare key COVID-19 metrics such as number of people vaccinated with case numbers or the testing and positivity rates during the height of the pandemic.
As countries are shifting their focus and budgets away from COVID, reliable case numbers and related data will become increasingly vague and the Covid-19 Observer might function primarily as a tool for historical investigation of the pandemic in Africa. For example, journalists can use the tool to understand how COVID-19 case numbers and deaths put pressure on hospitals when reporting on health care infrastructure and budget expenditure in 2020 and 2021 in different African countries.
Although governments are moving health budget investments elsewhere, we hope that testing and sampling for new variants continues. We do not want to become complacent about potential global health risks, and the continued collection of accurate data will most likely prove essential for guiding policies and interventions for the foreseeable future.