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Six in Seven COVID-19 Infections Are Undetected in Africa-WHO

WHO found out that as of 10 October 2021 the cumulative number of COVID-19 infections is estimated to be 59 million in Africa, which is seven times more than the over 8 million cases reported.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Moeti Matshidiso.

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A new assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that only 14.2% or one in seven COVID-19 infections are being detected in Africa.

The WHO analysis estimates infections based on the reported number of cases and deaths and an infection fatality rate grounded in population-based studies. It found that as of 10 October 2021 the cumulative number of COVID-19 infections is estimated to be 59 million in Africa, which is seven times more than the over 8 million cases reported.

Dr Moeti Matshidiso, the WHO Regional Director for Africa told a news conference on Thursday that detection of cases has focused on people reporting to health facilities with symptoms, in addition to testing arriving and departing international travelers.

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Since the start of the pandemic and as of 10 October, more than 70 million COVID-19 tests have been reported by African countries, which is a fraction of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.

By contrast, the United States, with about a third of the population, has reportedly administered over 550 million tests, while the United Kingdom, with less than 10% of the population of Africa, has administered over 280 million tests.

To reverse that trend and curb transmission, the WHO Regional Office for Africa on Thursday announced a new initiative to enhance community screening for COVID-19 in eight countries.

The programme aims to reach more than 7 million people with rapid diagnostic tests in the next year. The countries participating in the programme are Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Zambia.

The survey will be done by deploying teams in local communities to seek out possible contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and offer antigen rapid diagnostic tests.

Moeti says that the survey will use a “ring strategy which was pioneered successfully in the eradication of smallpox in the latter half of the 20th century to vaccinate people who are most likely to be infected and during the recent Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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The programme aims to increase the testing capacity in each participating country by 40%, ensuring they reach the WHO recommended benchmark of 10 tests performed per 10 000 people weekly.

Currently, around 20 countries more than a third of African countries do not reach this benchmark, according to figures by WHO.

Overall, there have now been over 8.4 million COVID-19 cases recorded in Africa, including 214, 000 deaths.

Despite a decline in case numbers in recent weeks, WHO reports vaccination rates remain low, with only 30% of the continent’s 54 nations having fully vaccinated 10% of their population against the disease compared with almost 90% of high-income countries.

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Meanwhile, just under half of the African countries that have received COVID-19 vaccines have fully vaccinated just 2% or less of their populations.    

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