Updated: Jan 22
January 20, 2021 / 15.00 PM --
As COVID-19 cumulative cases in Africa went beyond 3,3 million, the new variants have seen the prospects of a recovery tunnel getting darker. The true extent of the pandemic in many countries is not known as testing rates are low.
Africa makes up about 3.3% of the global total of confirmed virus cases, but this is believed to be just a fraction of the actual cases on the continent of 1.3 billion people.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (Africa CDC) COVID-19 dashboard revealed that the death toll related to the pandemic stood at 80 939 with 2,755 880 recoveries.
In a statement, the continental disease control and prevention agency, Africa CDC, said the southern African region is the hardest-hit area in terms of the number of cases, followed by the Northern African region.
Africa CDC said the five highly-affected African countries include South Africa with 1,337,926 cases, Morocco with 459,671 cases, Tunisia with 180,090 cases, Egypt with 156,397 cases, and Ethiopia with 131,195 cases, according to the latest figures from the Africa CDC. No data recorded for Mauritania and Western Sahara.
As of 17 January, the daily changes were 14,5%, an increase from 22 015 to 25 216 cases. An average of 25 223 cases were reported each day between 28 December 2020 and 10 January 2021, which is nearly 39% higher than the July 2020 two-week peak of 18 104 daily average cases Africa CDC revealed.
Cases increased 32% in mid-January
According to the World Customs Organization East and Southern Africa, in mid-December 2020 Africa had an increase in cases of 21% from mid-November. This has now risen to 32.8% in mid-January 2021 from mid-December 2020.
The regional customs organization said Seychelles was the hardest-hit country in both Africa over the last month with a 235.3% increase in cases between mid-December and mid-January. The country more than tripled its cases from 187 to 627 cases. Seychelles was followed by Lesotho which saw an increase of 179%, Eritrea, 154%, and Zimbabwe,123%.
South Africa the epicenter
South Africa accounts for about 30% of the continent’s cases, with more than 1.3 million cases nationwide, including 37,449 deaths, as of January 18.
The country has seen some promising signs of declining new COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week. The second wave continues to put a massive burden on the healthcare system.
South Africa Health Minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize said the decrease in infections could be credited to many factors, including enhanced physical distancing facilitated by lockdown regulations. Mkhize found it encouraging that despite the new Coronavirus variant that carries mutations, citizens are still able to protect themselves with the armor that the government has established.
Patients needing oxygen in Lagos rose fivefold as Zim recorded the highest COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours and Malawi turns a stadium into an isolation center
The number of coronavirus patients in Lagos, needing oxygen to survive has risen fivefold as a second wave of the pandemic hits Nigeria’s biggest city.
According to Bloomberg, Lagos had 41,374 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of January 17. A total of 227 infected people have been admitted to isolation centres, while another 9,213 persons are receiving care at home, said Akin Abayomi, the state’s commissioner for health.
On Monday, Zimbabwe recorded an unprecedented record high of 60 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours, a situation that has forced health experts to conclude that this could just be a tip of an iceberg, considering that collation of data on the pandemic has not been very efficient.
Around 773 deaths have been recorded in the country since the first case of the deadly respiratory virus was confirmed last year.
Malawi turns the stadium into an isolation center as cases rise. To date, Malawi has recorded just 12,470 coronavirus cases and 314 deaths for a population of over 18 million.
But more than 40 percent of infections were detected this month alone, with a record 685 new daily cases announced on Sunday.
Tests increase, but distribution, very uneven
Compared to the small amount of testing at the beginning of the pandemic, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong has said the increased testing is “good progress and we continue to be hopeful of this.”
The distribution of the tests, however, is very uneven. Just 10 countries, South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, and Cameroon are carrying out more than 70% of the continent’s testing. To make the testing more widespread, 2.7 million additional tests have been procured by member states, the Africa CDC said some weeks ago.
Increased testing is needed to help Africa locate where cases are rising and where additional medical responses are needed. And, when they become available to Africa, where vaccines should go.
Africa so far received only 25 doses
As the cases are increasing, rich countries are being accused of hoarding vaccines with more than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries.
Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) when he opened a week-long meeting of the WHO Executive Board.
“Not 25 million, not 25,000, just 25," Tedros said and warned that the rich countries' behavior would only prolong the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the restrictions needed to contain COVID-19 would increase human and economic suffering.
270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses secured by AU
The Africa Union Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa, on 14 January 2021 announced that the continent had secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through its COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), the Africa Medical Supplies Platform on behalf of Africa CDC.
The African Export-Import Bank will facilitate payments by providing advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of the Member States.
According to Dr. Nicaise Ndembi, senior science adviser for Africa CDC, the vaccines acquired will be allocated on a continental platform, set up by the AU in 2020 to make it easier for all 54 African countries to pool their purchasing power and buy in bulk.
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