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Africa Records Decline in COVID-19 Cases

According to WHO data, newly reported cases fell by 20% in the week from 10 to 16 January, while deaths dropped by 8%. According to officials, this decline in cases pushes the continent past its shortest upsurge yet that lasted 56 days
Africa has reported a drop in new cases of the Omicron Variant.  The revelation was made during the World Health Organization African Region COVID-19 press conference on Thursday. 


According to WHO data, newly reported cases fell by 20% in the week from 10 to 16 January, while deaths dropped by 8%. According to officials, this decline in cases pushes the continent past its shortest upsurge yet that lasted 56 days.

Reports from countries like South Africa. where Omicron was first sequenced, and which has accounted for the bulk of cases and deaths has recorded a downward trend over the past four weeks. Only North Africa reported an increase in cases over the past week, with a 55% spike.

Cases fell across the rest of Africa, where, as of 16 January, there were 10.4 million cumulative COVID-19 cases and more than 233 000 deaths.


Despite the fall in cases reported, the UN agency warns that the decrease in deaths is still small and further monitoring is needed, but if the trend continues the surge in deaths will also be the shortest reported so far during this pandemic. In countries like Uganda, while new cases are decreasing, the number of deaths is on the rise.


Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa says that countries need to be vigilant because the fall in cases does not mean the pandemic is no more.


"While the acceleration, peak, and decline of this wave have been unmatched, its impact has been moderate, and Africa is emerging with fewer deaths and lower hospitalizations. But the continent has yet to turn the tables on this pandemic. So long as the virus continues to circulate, further pandemic waves are inevitable. Africa must not only broaden vaccinations but also gain increased and equitable access to critical COVID-19 therapeutics to save lives and effectively combat this pandemic,” Dr Moeti said.


The African region’s current case fatality ratio remains the highest in the world, although it has been lowered in the last two waves. While improvements have been made in the availability of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients from 0.8 per 100 000 populations to 2.0 per 100 000, the numbers are still far from sufficient to meet the demands of the pandemic.

In terms of medication, currently, patients with severe forms of the virus are being treated with corticosteroids and medical oxygen. Corticosteroids are largely available and relatively affordable, but the availability of medical oxygen remains a challenge across the continent.

In addition, African countries face major impediments in accessing other COVID-19 treatments due to limited availability and high cost. Last week, WHO recommended two new drugs, a rheumatoid arthritis drug called baricitinib and a monoclonal antibody called sotrovimab, raising the number of WHO-approved COVID-19 therapeutics to 11. WHO is reviewing the data on two oral antivirals—paxlovid from Pfizer and molnupiravir from Merck—which the manufacturers report show promise in reducing the risk of hospitalization in some patients.
Dr. Moeti says with such advancements in treatments from the pandemic, Africa should not lie behind with supplies since it has one of the highest fatality rates in the world.


“The deep inequity that left Africa at the back of the queue for vaccines must not be repeated with life-saving treatments. Universal access to diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics will pave the shortest path to the end of this pandemic and no region of the world should be left on the fringes of this endeavor,” said Dr Moeti.