Africa’s Omicron-Driven Fourth Pandemic Wave Flattens: WHO

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Cape Town: Africa’s fourth pandemic wave, driven primarily by the Omicron variant, is flattening after a six-week surge, the WHO has said.

The new Omicron variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 26 declared it as a variant of concern.

Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief but no less destabilising.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the WHO said, After a six-week surge, Africa’s fourth pandemic wave-driven primarily by the Omicron variant is flattening, marking the shortest-lived surge to date in the continent where cumulative cases have now exceeded 10 million.

More than 85 per cent of the population of Africa about one billion people – is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine, he said. We cannot end the acute phase of the pandemic unless we work together to close these gaps, he said.

Last week, more than 15 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported to WHO from around the world by far the most cases reported in a single week, with Ghebreyesus calling it an underestimate.

South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first reported, saw a 9 per cent fall in weekly infections. East and Central Africa regions also experienced a drop. However, North and West Africa are witnessing a rise in cases, with North Africa reporting a 121 per cent increase this past week compared with the previous one, the WHO said.

While the African continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, concerns remain over the low vaccination rates. Just around 10 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. However, vaccine supplies to the continent have improved recently, and WHO is stepping up its support to countries to effectively deliver the doses to the wider population.

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