After a six-week surge, Africa’s fourth pandemic wave-driven primarily by the Omicron variant is flattening, marking the shortest-lived surge to date in the continent where cumulative cases have now exceeded 10 million, the World Health Organisation has said.
According to the global health body, as of 11 January, there have been 10.2 million COVID-19 cases in Africa, adding that weekly cases plateaued in the seven days to January 9, from the week before.
“Southern Africa, which saw a huge increase in infections during the pandemic wave, recorded a 14 per cent decline in infections over the past week. South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, saw a nine per cent fall in weekly infections. East and Central Africa regions also experienced a drop,” WHO said.
However, North and West Africa were witnessing a rise in cases, with North Africa reporting a 121 per cent increase this past week compared with the previous one.
The global heath body in a statement made available to The Guardian, said across the continent, though deaths rose by 64 per cent in the seven days ending on January 9, compared with the week before mainly due to infections among people at high-risk, deaths in the fourth wave were lower than in the previous waves.
“Hospitalisations have remained low. In South Africa, for instance, COVID-19 patients currently occupy around nine per cent of its over 5,600 intensive care unit beds. In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type.”
“Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief but no less destabilising. The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccinations. The next wave might not be so forgiving,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO, Regional Director for Africa.