The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Africa is poised to surpass four million COVID-19 infections this week, since the first confirmed case on the continent was announced in February 2020.
WHO Regional Office for Africa disclosed this in a statement issued from its headquarters in Brazzaville, Congo, on Thursday.
The statement stated that Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, disclosed this at a virtual press conference that the fight against the virus was receiving a boost with the arrival of vaccines.
“The year-long battle against the virus, which has also claimed over 106, 000 lives, is now receiving a crucial boost with the arrival of vaccines through the COVAX Facility – a multi-partner vaccine procurement platform.
“Following a second wave, which peaked at much higher numbers than Africa’s first surge, new case numbers declined for five weeks, and then plateaued during the past three weeks at around 70, 000 cases per week.
“In the last week, there has been a slight uptick in new cases and an upward trend in 12 countries, including in Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Cameroon.’’
The statement stated that deaths reported had dropped by more than 50 per cent over the past 28 days when compared to the previous 28 days.
It stated that the case fatality ratio or the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases had been at 3.6 per cent, for the past 28 days; reflecting a far higher figure than the global average.
“With the COVID-19 vaccine deliveries picking up speed, the response to the pandemic is getting a much-awaited boost; more than 14.6 million vaccine doses have been delivered to 22 African countries since Feb. 24.
“The vaccines have been delivered to 22 countries through COVAX, an effort co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and WHO in partnership with UNICEF.
“Ten countries have started vaccination, using COVAX-funded vaccines, while another 10 began with vaccines procured outside the COVAX Facility – either bilaterally or through donations.
“More than 518, 000 doses of COVAX-supplied vaccines have been administered’’, the statement said.
It further quoted Moeti, as saying, “every new COVID-19 vaccine delivery to Africa is a step towards equity and ensuring we get our lives and livelihoods back.
“But doses will remain limited and it’s critical that frontline health workers and other priority groups are at the front of the queue.
“Health workers deserve protection because without their pivotal role, efforts against the pandemic can go only so far.”
According to the statement, COVID-19 had heavily jolted the health workforce in the African region, with an average of 267 health worker infections per day, translating into 11 new health worker infections per hour, since the pandemic began.
“To date, more than 100, 000 health workers have contracted COVID-19 in the African region; Health worker infections account for 3.5 per cent of the total number of cases in the region.’’
Moeti added: “the pandemic has nearly knocked loose the linchpin of the health systems in many countries.
“We must further protect and equip our health workers to effectively contribute to the efforts to contain COVID-19. Everyone’s wellbeing is at stake without an adequately supported health workforce.”
WHO noted that Africa’s health systems had been severely tested, with doctors, nurses and other health workers stretched to the limit.
It stated that several studies had identified lack of Personal Protective Equipment, exposure to COVID-19 patients, work overload, poor infection prevention and control measures, as the main risk factors associated with infections in health facilities.
“WHO has supported countries to strengthen COVID-19 infection, prevention and control, developed and disseminated guidance on health worker infection prevention, as well as helped train more than 200, 000 health workers.
“With partner organisations, WHO has also shipped more than 6.4 million rapid diagnosis test kits to African countries, to boost COVID-19 testing even in remote areas.’’
The UN health agency further said that Laboratory diagnosis of the virus in the African region had also improved greatly over the past three months, with tests nearly doubling to 243 per 10, 000 people, up from 149 tests per 10, 000 people.
“More than 27 million tests have been performed in the region to date; Cabo Verde, Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa have registered the highest testing rates,’’ WHO said