The impact of COVID-19 on rheumatology practice across Africa.

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To identify the changes in rheumatology service delivery across the five regions of Africa from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.The COVID-19 African Rheumatology Study Group created an online survey consisting of 40 questions relating to the current practices and experiences of rheumatologists across Africa. The CHERRIES checklist for reporting results of internet e-surveys was adhered to.A total of 554 completed responses were received from 20 countries, which include six in Northern Africa, six in West Africa, four in Southern Africa, three in East Africa and one in Central Africa. Consultant grade rheumatologists constituted 436 (78.7%) of respondents with a mean of 14.5 ± 10.3 years of experience. A total of 77 (13.9%) rheumatologists avoided starting a new biologic. Face-to-face clinics with the use of some personal protective equipment continued to be held in only 293 (52.9%) rheumatologists' practices. Teleconsultation modalities found usage as follows: telephone in 335 (60.5%), WhatsApp in 241 (43.5%), emails in 90 (16.3%) and video calls in 53 (9.6%). Physical examinations were mostly reduced in 295 (53.3%) or done with personal protective equipment in 128 (23.1%) practices. Only 316 (57.0%) reported that the national rheumatology society in their country had produced any recommendation around COVID-19 while only 73 (13.2%) confirmed the availability of a national rheumatology COVID-19 registry in their country.COVID-19 has shifted daily rheumatology practices across Africa to more virtual consultations and regional disparities are more apparent in the availability of local protocols and registries.

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