The World Health Organization reports COVID-19 cases are continuing their downward spiral in Africa but warns the pandemic is not over and nations must remain vigilant.
Following a recent four-week resurgence of COVID-19, cases and deaths once again are dropping in Africa. Since this month-long spike ended on November 20, the World Health Organization has recorded slightly more than 12,300 new cases and 50 deaths.
The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said these numbers are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
“Despite the recent uptick, there is hope that Africa will be spared the challenges of the previous two years when surging cases marred the holiday season for many," said Moeti. "While the current efforts keep the pandemic within control, we are carefully monitoring its evolution. We must remain vigilant and be ready to adopt more stringent preventive measures if necessary.”
Moeti said investments in COVID-19 management over the last three years are paying off and the region is better able to cope with the virus. She notes the number of intensive care unit beds has increased and medical oxygen production has grown.
She said Africa also has strengthened its laboratory capacity including conducting genomic sequencing. But she added that worrisome gaps in vaccination remain, especially among the most vulnerable.
Moeti said it is urgent that health workers be vaccinated to protect them from getting severe illness and dying. Other high-risk groups who must be vaccinated, she said, include the elderly, people living with HIV, and those who have potentially life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
“These, in our view, are the groups in which we need to … really push, accelerate in coverage, increasing the proportion of people that are covered and reaching the highest level of coverage possible, while also, of course, making sure that those of them who took their first series of vaccines early also are boosted so to sustain the level of immunity, particularly protect them against severe illness,” she said.
The WHO reports only 26 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Regional director Moeti said greater coverage can be achieved and more people reached by integrating COVID-19 vaccination into routine immunization and primary health care services.
As the pandemic winds down, she said, COVID-19 should be brought out of an emergency response mode and integrated into routine health care.