Objective The purpose of this analysis was to describe national critical care capacity shortages for 52 African countries and to outline needs for each country to adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods A modified SECIR compartment model was used to estimate the number of severe COVID-19 cases at the peak of the outbreak. Projections of the number of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators needed at outbreak peak were generated for four scenarios (if 30, 50, 70, or 100% of patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms seek health services) assuming that all people with severe infections would require hospitalization, that 4.72% would require ICU admission, and that 2.3% would require mechanical ventilation. Findings Across the 52 countries included in this analysis, the average number of severe COVID-19 cases projected at outbreak peak was 138 per 100,000 (SD: 9.6). Comparing current national capacities to estimated needs at outbreak peak, we found that 31of 50 countries (62%) do not have a sufficient number of hospital beds per 100,000 people if 100% of patients with severe infections seek out health services and assuming that all hospital beds are empty and available for use by patients with COVID-19. If only 30% of patients seek out health services then 10 of 50 countries (20%) do not have sufficient hospital bed capacity. The average number of ICU beds needed at outbreak peak across the 52 included countries ranged from 2 per 100,000 people (SD: 0.1) when 30% of people with severe COVID-19 infections access health services to 6.5 per 100,000 (SD: 0.5) assuming 100% of people seek out health services. Even if only 30% of severely infected patients seek health services at outbreak peak, then 34 of 48 countries (71%) do not have a sufficient number of ICU beds per 100,000 people to handle projected need. Only four countries (Cabo Verde, Egypt, Gabon, and South Africa) have a sufficient number of ventilators to meet projected national needs if 100% of severely infected individuals seek health services assuming all ventilators are functioning and available for COVID-19 patients, while 35 other countries require two or more additional ventilators per 100,000 people.
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