Being an African leader in a Covid pandemic has been perilous since they die “seven times above estimates of the world’s average for a demographic profile of similar sex and age average for the same period,” according to a British study.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ Global Health) published a study in April entitled “Why have so many African leaders died of COVID-19?” Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that no less than 24 national government ministers and heads of state died of SARS-Cov-2 between February 6, 2020 and February 6, 2021.

At least seventeen of the 24 deaths were African ministers and heads of state. This unusual trend was blamed on various factors, including low-quality healthcare, comorbidities, and higher overall mortality rates across the continent.

But there was also another issue at play, according to the study group: Health policy decisions related to vaccines. “Covid-19-related deaths have been associated with substantial changes in public health policy in cases where the response to the pandemic had initially been contested or minimal. Ministerial deaths may also result in a reconfiguration of political leadership, but we do not expect a wave of younger and more gender representative replacements.”

In July, Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina survived an assassination attempt. Madagascar Minister of Public Security Rodellys Randrianarison confirmed in a statement that authorities arrested six people who were plotting to murder the president. Africa News also reported that authorities were aware of an assassination plot against General Richard Ravalomanana last month. He is described as President Rajoelina’s “right hand man”.

This week, Rajoelina sacked all his ministers, only weeks after the plot to kill the president was uncovered. Rajoelina’s office gave no reason for the dismissals in a statement issued late on Wednesday, reported France24, but two French nationals were among those arrested, diplomatic sources told AFP. The attorney general announced that one was in fact a former member of the French Armed Forces.

Last week, a senior prosecutor said Madagascar had arrested 21 more suspects, including 12 military personnel.

President Rajoelina said in March last year that he did not want to get vaccinated, citing dangerous side effects and the need to protect himself, his family and the citizens of Madagascar. Rojoelina has instead promoted a herbal remedy derived from artemisia – a plant with proven anti-malarial properties – and other indigenous herbs.

Notably, Tanzania had taken delivery of consignments of Covid-Organics or CVO from Madagascar. It’s now-deceased president had also been one of the anti-vaccine leaders on the continent. Other African countries that have been supplied include the Comores, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Republic of Congo and the DRC.

An international team of researchers found that extracts of the medicinal plant Artemisia annua are effective against SARS-CoV-2 under laboratory conditions and inhibit infections.

The team of scientists from Denmark, Germany and Hong Kong found that several extracts of annual mugwort (Artemisia annua) are active against SARS-CoV-2 pathogens under laboratory conditions. The necessary plant material was provided by ArtmiLife Inc., a company based in the US that specializes in the marketing of products based on Artemisia annua.

Treatment with the Artemisia derivatives is currently part of the standard treatment for malaria worldwide and is even used for newborns. The study published in the journal Scientific Reports, involved the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany.

The researchers infected the tissue of primates and humans with the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen and then added the plant extracts to the cell cultures and it was shown that various treatment methods were active against the Coronavirus and inhibited the infections.

Ten percent of the world’s annual mugwort production grows in Madagascar. Administered as a herbal tea, the drug is said to have helped numerous Covid-19 patients. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against its use against Covid-19, as the effectiveness has not been proven by clinical studies. It will be some time before these are completed.

Madagascar received 250 000 doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine in May through the COVAX programme — an alliance of international organizations that aims to push vaccines in Africa — but health officials administered only 190 000 of the doses before they expired on 17 June, because not enough people turned up to receive them.

According to government reports, Coronavirus cases across Madagascar have been in decline since late April. By mid-June, 56 percent of hospital beds were available.