COVID-19 data reporting systems in Africa reveal insights for future pandemics

Globally, countries have used diverse methods to report data during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using international guidelines and principles of emergency management, we compare national data reporting systems in African countries in order to determine lessons for future pandemics. We analyse COVID-19 reporting practices across 54 African countries through 2020. Reporting systems were diverse and included summaries, press releases, situation reports and online dashboards. These systems were communicated via social media accounts and websites belonging to ministries of health and public health. Data variables from the reports included event detection (cases/deaths/recoveries), risk assessment (demographics/co-morbidities) and response (total tests/hospitalisations). Of countries with reporting systems, 36/53 (67.9%) had recurrent situation reports and/or online dashboards which provided more extensive data. All of these systems reported cases, deaths and recoveries. However, few systems contained risk assessment and response data, with only 5/36 (13.9%) reporting patient co-morbidities and 9/36 (25%) including total hospitalisations. Further evaluation of reporting practices in Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa as examples from different sub-regions revealed differences in reporting healthcare capacity and preparedness data. Improving the standardisation and accessibility of national data reporting systems could augment research and decision-making, as well as increase public awareness and transparency for national governments.

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