Risk of pandemic resurgence ‘remains high’ in Africa, says WHO

The risk of COVID-19 resurgence remains high in several African countries due to poor adherence to public health measures, including mass gatherings, low testing, and vaccination rates, an analysis by the World Health Organization has shown.

Three countries face a very high risk of COVID-19 resurgence, 20 faces high, 22 moderate risks, and only one country faces low risk, according to the risk assessment of 46 countries, a WHO Africa Regional Office said in a statement on Thursday.

The risk was estimated using seven indicators with data from the past four weeks, including COVID-19 cases per million people; the percentage of change in new cases; the percentage of change in new deaths; and the reproductive number (the rate at which an infection spreads).

Others are the pandemic trend; the average weekly number of tests per 10,000 people; and the percentage of the population that has received at least one vaccine dose.

With more than 4.5 million confirmed cases and over 120,000 deaths to date, the continent has not experienced a surge in cases since January and the epidemic curve has plateaued for six weeks, WHO said.

However, it noted, the relatively low number of cases has encouraged complacency and there are signs of reduced observance of preventive measures.

It added that recent political rallies in countries such as Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Kenya caused a spike in new cases and upcoming elections in Cabo Verde, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Sao Tome, Principe, and Zambia could trigger a rise in cases due to mass gatherings.

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“We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security. The devastating surge of cases and deaths in India, and increases in other regions of the world, are clear signs that the pandemic is not yet over in African countries. A new upsurge of COVID-19 infections is a real risk in many countries even if the region’s case count in recent weeks appears to be stable,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Combatting COVID-19 fatigue appears to be the key battle in our collective response to the pandemic.”

WHO said most countries in the region are experiencing community transmission, yet 31 out of the 46 countries analysed performed fewer than 10 tests per 10,000 people per week in the past four weeks.

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