Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), also referred to as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), became a global pandemic due to the continuous spread of the virus worldwide. The virus is considered a zoonotic contagious disease that can transmit from animal to human and from human to human (1); when transmitted into humans, it can lead to severe respiratory illness (2, 3). COVID-19 was first reported by the world health organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019; as a result of its continuous global transmission and inability to restrain the virus worldwide, it was declared a global health concern and announced as a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 (4).
The contagious virus began its ravaging effect from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and then around the world (5–7), except Antarctica (8). Unlike past outbreaks in the same strain of coronavirus’ family-like Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS), COVID-19 spread rapidly globally with a higher rate of infections and deaths (9). As at September 20, 2020, the global confirmed cases of COVID-19 were 30,685,001, with 955,843 deaths and 20,922,189 recoveries (10).
Several studies have noted that the major transmission route of COVID-19 is respiratory droplets produced from an infected person while sneezing and coughing. Infected surfaces and objects also transmit it since the virus can survive some hours while suspended in the air (11–13). The COVID-19 has been characterized by wide clinical features ranging from no symptoms to a severe form of respiratory illness (14, 15). The typical signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough and shortness of breath (1, 14, 16).
Although the spread of COVID-19 is highest in Europe and America, it has been alarmingly increased in Africa (17–20). The situation might be serious in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) due to high comorbidities (human immunodeficiency virus, tuberculosis and malaria), poverty, and poor healthcare service quality and access to health facilities (17, 18). As of September 19, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 from 55 African countries have reached 1,390,510 with reported deaths of 33,621, and 1,140,516 recoveries (10). In Africa, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Egypt on February 14, 2020. Since then, the number of cases have continued to increase with Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya identified as vulnerable countries (21).
A bi-national Africa study on knowledge, attitude and practice of Africans towards COVID-19 showed a magnitude of variation in knowledge, attitude and practice towards the virus (22). Other studies in SSA also concluded that African dwellers are not complying with recommended health and safety measures advised by the health ministers of the countries or WHO, including social distancing and other important preventive measures. This is because many people in Africa regarded the disease as a “distant white man’s sickness” that could never spread to their habitat (18, 23, 24).
Considering the low level of education that has been reported in some SSA countries (25), it is expected that misinformation about COVID-19 will almost spread faster among the vulnerable groups. However, as the number of COVID-19 cases gradually rises among the sub-Saharan population (10), uncertainties unfold as misinformation about COVID-19 continues to propagate in SSA. The propagation of misinformation in sub-Saharan Africa has also become a major concern for governments, public health experts and WHO (26).
Thus, a scoping review of literature on studies conducted in SSA on the knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and practices (KAP) toward COVID-19 is critical to understanding the magnitude of KAP towards the virus. It is anticipated that the study results will reveal research gaps to guide health experts in decision making in SSA as well as develop policies and interventions tailored towards bridging the gap.