Africa’s fourth pandemic wave, driven primarily by the Omicron variant, is flattening according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report issued in mid-January 2022. After a six-week surge – the shortest-lived surge to date in the continent – cumulative cases have now exceeded ten million.
As of the 11th January, there have been 10.2 million COVID-19 cases in Africa. Weekly cases plateaued in the seven days to the 9th January 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 9 per cent fall in weekly infections. East and Central Africa regions also experienced a drop. However, North and West Africa are witnessing a rise in cases, with North Africa reporting a 121 per cent increase this past week compared with the previous one.
Across the continent, though, deaths rose by 64 per cent in the seven days ending on the 9th January compared with the week before, mainly due to infections among people at high risk. Nonetheless, deaths in the fourth wave are lower than in the previous waves. Hospitalisations have remained low. In South Africa, for instance, around 9 per cent of its over 5,600 intensive care unit beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Testing rose modestly by 1.6 per cent over the past week, with over 90 million tests carried out across the continent. Twenty-three countries recorded a high positivity rate of over 10 per cent over the past week.
In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type. So far, 30 African countries have detected the Omicron variant. The Delta variant has been reported in 42 countries in Africa. In West Africa, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, the number of Omicron sequences undertaken by countries including Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal is growing. In Cabo Verde and Nigeria, Omicron is currently the dominant variant.
While the continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, vaccinations remain low. Just around ten per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. Vaccine supplies to the continent have improved recently, WHO reports. The organisation is stepping up its support to countries to effectively deliver the doses to the wider population.
Read more at WHO website