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Africa on track to control COVID-19 pandemic in 2022 – Moeti

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 MATSHIDISO Moeti, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa said over the last two years that Africa has witnessed four waves of COVID-19, each with higher peaks or more total new cases than the previous one.

  The surges have been mostly driven by new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus—which were highly transmissible though not necessarily more fatal than prior waves. Each subsequent wave has triggered a response that has been more effective than the previous, with each surge shorter by 23% on average from the one before. While the first wave lasted about 29 weeks, the fourth wave was over in six weeks, or about a fifth of the time.

  “Over the past two years, the African continent has gotten smarter, faster and better at responding to each new surge in cases of COVID-19,” said Dr Moeti.

  “Against the odds, including huge inequities in access to vaccination, we’ve weathered the COVID-19 storm with resilience and determination, informed by Africa’s long history and experience with controlling outbreaks. But COVID-19 has cost us dearly, with more than 242 000 lives lost and tremendous damage to our economies.”

  According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have pushed up to 40 million people into extreme poverty on the continent, and every month of delay in lifting containment measures is estimated to cost Africa   US$ 13.8 billion in lost gross domestic product.

  “Although COVID-19 will be with us for the long-term, there is light at the end of the tunnel.   This year, we can end the disruption and destruction the virus has left in its path, and gain back control over our lives,” added Dr Moeti.  

  “Controlling this pandemic must be a priority, but we understand no two countries have had the same pandemic experience, and each country must, therefore, chart its own way out of this emergency.”

  When Africa experienced its first wave, attributed to the spread of the wild SARS-CoV-2 virus, the average case fatality ratio (CFR) – or the proportion of infected people who die from COVID-19 – was high (2.5%). That figure rose to 2.7% during the Beta-driven second wave, before going back down to 2.4% during the Delta-powered third wave. In contrast, the average CFR during the fourth wave is low (0.8%), representing the first time a wave’s surge in cases has not led to a commensurate increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

  Since the start of the pandemic, the continent’s capacity to manage COVID-19 cases has gradually improved, with the increased availability of trained health workers, oxygen and other medical supplies.

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