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It was bound to happen. The coronavirus outbreak has tested the global capacity to deal with one of the worst epidemics this century leaving healthcare systems worldwide in limbo.

While African countries have yet to go through the horrid phase of its spread, developed countries in Europe and the US have intensified the search for ventilators as public health systems get overwhelmed.

Ventilators are critical for the treatment of the coronavirus and are designed to put oxygen into the lungs of patients in danger of lung failure. In Italy, due to lack of capacity, medical staff have been prioritising patients with the highest chances of survival.

Most of the companies making ventilators abroad have cancelled export orders, meaning that countries like Kenya will be grappling with a crisis deeper than that experienced by wealthier nations.

For instance, German manufacturer Drägerwerk AG now says that the 10,000 orders by the federal government would be stretched over the entire year, which means they won’t have the capacity to make ventilators for export.

It also emerged that Germany was one of the best prepared in tackling the pandemic and had 28,000 intensive care unit beds. Of these, some 25,000 were already equipped with ventilators.

Epidemiologists say that Germany has been able to stem the deaths by tracking and containing the early clusters. The UK has about 4,000 intensive care beds and only 20 per cent are free.

The fear in many African countries is that if the trajectory observed in China, Italy, US and Spain happens, the health crisis will snowball into a disaster.

In Spain, for instance, the number of patients has surpassed the national capacity of ICU beds. The country had 4,400 beds and healthcare workers are being forced to choose between who to treat and who to let die. Spain has recorded 6,528 deaths while Italy, the new epicentre of the virus, has 10,779 deaths.

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