Official statistics on coronavirus cases in Africa give the impression that the continent has avoided the worst of the pandemic. But in a continent where most deaths are not officially recorded and where many countries struggle to vaccinate their populations, the vast majority of coronavirus cases – around six in seven – go undetected, according to Dr Matshidiso Moeti , Africa Director of the World Health Organization.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Dr Moeti said the WHO estimated that around 59 million people in Africa had been infected with the coronavirus from the start of the pandemic until October 10. Only just over 8 million cases have been officially recorded. .
“Now is the time to go on the offensive against Covid-19 and work with local communities to break chains of transmission and prevent larger epidemics from occurring,” said Dr Moeti.
The WHO analysis was derived from a coronavirus calculator developed by Resolve to Save Lives, a world public health organization which focuses on cardiovascular disease and epidemic prevention. Calculator estimates infections based on number of reported cases and deaths and “death rate from infection based on population-based studies,” WHO statement says
Africa remains the continent with the lowest vaccination rates. In nearly half of African countries that have received Covid-19 vaccines, only 2% of the population or less has been fully vaccinated, according to WHO
During a meeting at the White House, President Biden told President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya that the United States will donate more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.
These doses and previous shipments to the African Union represent more than half of the Johnson & Johnson doses the United States has purchased so far for home use, the White House said in a statement.
“With the 50 million doses already sent to Africa and the Pfizer vaccine, which continues to be shipped several times a week to the continent, these doses will help close the vaccine equity gap,” the statement said.
With limited testing available in many countries, Dr Moeti said, communities in Africa often flew blind, with asymptomatic people transmitting the virus without knowing they had it.
In an effort to curb transmission, she announced a community initiative to improve testing for coronavirus in eight countries: Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Senegal and Zambia. The initiative includes a broader use of antigen detection, a relatively inexpensive type of test that gives results in about 15 minutes, and a voluntary ‘ring-based’ strategy of testing for anyone living under 100. meters of a positive case.
Dr Moeti said coronavirus cases appeared to be trending “down or plateau” in most African countries, although some are still reporting increases, including Angola, Gabon and Cameroon. In Rwanda, which had imposed one of the strictest containments, the bars resumed normal activities at the end of September after being closed for 18 months.
Several African countries are also facing outbreaks of other infectious diseases, including the deadly Ebola virus. Côte d’Ivoire confirmed its first case of Ebola in nearly 30 years in August, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has since reported two fatal cases of Ebola, Dr Moeti said. Guinea experienced an epidemic earlier this year.