What’s happening to numbers in Africa?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020 00:00 |
A resident in Nairobi takes Covid-19 test. Photo/PD/FILE

Pretoria, Wednesday

With some of the most populous countries across Africa seeing increases in Covid-19 cases, there have been concerns the continent is facing another spike in infections.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has talked of a “second wave” arriving.

Cases have been rising gradually since late September, according to data from both the Africa CDC and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Looking at new weekly cases over the past month, they have gone up by an average of 3.5 per cent each week.

But there are significant variations across the continent, with some countries seeing small spikes, others witnessing more sustained increases and some not yet past an initial rise in cases.

South Africa now accounts for more than 60 per cent of daily new cases detected in sub-Saharan Africa. 

There has been a clear, but uneven “resurgence in transmission “across the sub-Saharan region, according to Prof Martin Prince of King’s Global Health Institute in London.

After a decline in reported cases for four months, the government is now talking of a second wave.

The country’s health ministry says most of the new infections have been amongst those aged between 15 and 19 years.

This is believed to be due to a large number of big celebrations in recent weeks, some of them held to mark the end of exams.

Top South African infectious diseases expert Salim Abdool Karim told the BBC: “Some establishments serving alcohol were having very large functions in the evening, with over a thousand people, in clear violation of the rules.”

Four provinces - Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng Province - are the ones most affected by the resurgence in cases.

Covid-related deaths in South Africa have increased by 19 per cent in the four weeks up to December 6, according to the Africa CDC.

The government has announced new restrictions, such as closing some beaches and limiting the times during which alcohol can be sold.

In the weeks up to early December, the biggest rates of increase were mainly in north Africa, where temperatures have been falling as winter approaches.

Morocco saw the largest increase in numbers of new cases on the continent - although cases there, are now on a downward trend. 

Over the past four weeks, there have also been sustained increases in daily cases in Nigeria, Egypt, DR Congo and Uganda. Cases had also been rising in Kenya and Ethiopia, although the increases have tailed off in those countries recently.

The reported death rate per capita on the continent, has been low, compared with other parts of the world, despite the weak health infrastructure in many African countries.

Africa CDC’s John Nkengasong says that “clearly, the second wave is here.”  “As we speak now, we have seen the numbers increase steadily to a point that my speculation is that by January or February, we will be where we were at the peak of this pandemic in July.”

The reported death rate per capita on the continent has been low compared with other parts of the world.

The WHO says the testing level in Africa is still low compared to other regions.

Ten countries that account for about 70 per cent the total tests conducted  are South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana. —BBC

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