The World Health Organization reports that the growth of the fast-spreading omicron variant has peaked in Africa and is flattening in most African countries.
This is good news for the continent ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is entering its third year. So far, the World Health Organization reports that more than 10 million people in Africa have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 230,000 have died.
The UN health agency reports that Africa is emerging from its fourth pandemic wave, driven primarily by the Omicron variant, which quickly overtook the Delta variant to become the dominant strain. After a six-week surge, the WHO says Omicron has reported its first drop in cases.
If this trend continues, the WHO says it will be the shortest-lasting surge ever recorded on the continent. Abdul Salam Guye is the Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the WHO’s Regional Office for Africa. He says it is premature to let down your guard because the latest data was collected during the holiday period, when numbers are less reported.
“During the past week, cases registered a decline compared to a week earlier, with a slight-by-point drop of two percent. Infections also declined in three of Africa’s five sub-regions. Only North and West Africa are currently seeing an increase in cases.” Guy said.
Anita Graham is in the Department of Pulmonology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She says the Omicron variant accounted for 95 percent of all infections during the region’s fourth pandemic wave. However, she says there have been far fewer severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths than the more severe Delta strain.
“However, we are still seeing very serious infections and admissions in patients who have not been vaccinated. Also, in patients with co-morbidities,” Graham said. “Our vaccination is the best, most effective way to protect ourselves and our patients from serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
Unfortunately, WHO officials note that only 10 percent of Africa’s 1.2 billion population is fully vaccinated, compared to 50 percent of the wider world’s population. He says the coming months will be crucial for Africa’s efforts to improve vaccination rates.
They say that if Africa is given the supplies and means to roll out these life-saving vaccines it has the technology and tools to strike a balance against the pandemic.