The World Health Organisation says Africa is poised to surpass four million COVID-19 infections this week since the continent’s first confirmed case in February 2020.

Speaking during a virtual press conference on Thursday, WHO Regional Director for Africa. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said 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.

Dr. Moeti noted that 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.

“While deaths reported have dropped by more than 50 percent over the past 28 days compared with the previous 28 days, the case fatality ratio or the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases is at 3.6 percent for the past 28 days. This is higher than the global average.

“With 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 February 24 through COVAX, an effort co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organisation in partnership with UNICEF.”

She added that 10 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.

“Every new COVID-19 vaccine delivery to Africa is a step towards equity and ensuring we get our lives and livelihoods back,” said Moeti.

 “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.”

The UN body said COVID-19 has heavily jolted the health workforce in the African region and since the beginning of the pandemic, 267 health worker infections have been recorded on average every day, translating to 11 new health worker infections per hour.

 “The pandemic has nearly knocked loose the linchpin of the health systems in many countries,” said Dr. Moeti. “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.”

 

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