NEW YORK, United States of America, January 14, 2022/APO Group/ —
The WHO said this marked the shortest increase since the pandemic began on the continent, where total cases exceeded 10.2 million.
Recorded infection cases show that the weekly number leveled off in the seven days leading up to January 9, compared to the previous week.
“Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been pronounced and brief, but no less destabilizing,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.
In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the rapidly spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type.
While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to overtake the previously dominant Beta, Omicron overtook Delta within two weeks in the worst-affected African countries, according to the WHO.
Southern Africa saw a huge spike in infections during the pandemic wave, but saw a 14 percent decline in confirmed cases over the past week.
And South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, saw a nine percent drop in weekly infections.
While the East and Central Africa regions also saw a drop in the number of cases, North and West Africa are seeing an increase in infections, with North Africa reporting a 121 percent increase over the past week. , compared to the previous seven days.
“The crucial pandemic countermeasure urgently needed in Africa remains, and that is to rapidly and significantly scale up COVID-19 vaccines,” the senior WHO official said. “The next wave might not be as forgiving.”
A ‘concerted push’ is needed
Through training in bioinformatics, sample handling and other key areas, WHO is supporting countries across the continent in reinforcing genomic sequencing to identify new mutations.
The Organization is also helping to procure and deliver critical laboratory equipment and supplies.
So far, 30 African countries, and at least 142 worldwide, have detected the Omicron variant, while the Delta variant has been reported in 42 African countries.
In West Africa, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, the number of Omicron sequences performed by countries such as Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal is growing.
And Omicron is currently the dominant variant in both Cape Verde and Nigeria.
“We have the knowledge and the tools, and with a concerted push, we can certainly tip the scales against the pandemic,” said Dr. Moeti.
Stem variants, inoculate
While the continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, only about 10 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
However, vaccine supplies to Africa have recently improved, and the WHO is stepping up its support to countries to deliver doses to the general population.
“This year should mark a turning point in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Africa,” said Dr. Moeti.
“With large sections of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of deadly variants are woefully slim,” he added.
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