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The fourth Covid-19 wave in Africa that was driven primarily by the Omicron variant seems to be flattening, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated. 

“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," said the health body in a statement on Thursday. 

As of 11 January, there have been 10.2 million cumulative Covid-19 cases in Africa. Weekly cases plateaued in the seven days to 9 January from the week before. Southern Africa, which saw a huge increase in infections during the pandemic wave, recorded a 14% decline in infections over the past week.

South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first reported, saw a 9% 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% increase this past week compared with the previous one.

In view of this, the WHO said that although the recent surge was “steep and brief" it was still destabilising and called for greater vaccination coverage in the continent. 

“Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief but no less destabilising. The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing Covid-19 vaccinations. The next wave might not be so forgiving," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also recently voiced concern that more than 85% of the population of Africa – about one billion people - is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine. Only 10% of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated.

“We cannot end the acute phase of the pandemic unless we work together to close these gaps," he said.

Alain Poy, head of the WHO’s vaccine-preventable disease program in Africa, had said that the number of Africans being inoculated against Covid-19 needs to climb to 34 million people a week, from 6 million currently, if the least vaccinated continent is to reach the target of 70% of its people fully covered by mid-year.

 

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