WHO: COVID cases, deaths in Africa fall to the lowest level yet

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – The number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa has dropped to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, marking the longest drop yet seen in the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

In a statement on Thursday, the UN health agency said COVID-19 infections had been “refueled” from a peak of more than 308,000 weekly cases to fewer than 20,000 last week due to the omicron rise. Cases and deaths fell by 29% and 37% respectively in the last week; deaths dropped to 239 from the previous week.

“This low level of infection has not been seen since April 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic in Africa,” the WHO said, noting that no country in the region is currently seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

However, the agency warned that as winter approaches for countries in the southern hemisphere, “there is a high risk of another wave of new infections.” Coronavirus spreads more easily in cooler temperatures when people are more likely to congregate in greater numbers indoors.

“With the virus still circulating, the risk of new and potentially more deadly variants still emerging, and pandemic control measures are crucial to an effective response to an increase in infections,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa Director.

The decline in Africa is in line with declining COVID-19 figures globally, although Chinese officials fear that the country still does not have its recent rise in omicron-involved cases under control despite a “zero-tolerance” approach that has triggered a three-week lockdown in Shanghai, where at least 15 million people are still barred from going outside.

The measures have led to frustration among Shanghai residents over running out of food and medicine. This weekgovernment authorities also closed access to Guangzhou, an industrial center with 19 million people near Hong Kong, and other cities cut off their external connections or close factories and schools.

Meanwhile, researchers in the United States. warn that the country may be seeing a wave of cases driven by the omicron sub-variant BA.2, which has already peaked across Europe. The country soon expects to mark the death of at least 1 million Americans killed by COVID.

Earlier this week, the WHO said Researchers in Botswana and South Africa have discovered new forms of the omicron variant, labeled BA.4 and BA.5, but are not yet sure if they could be more transmissible or dangerous.

To date, the new versions of omicron have been discovered in four people in Botswana and 23 people in South Africa. In addition to Africa, researchers have confirmed cases in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom. The WHO said that so far there was no evidence that the new sub-variants spread differently from the original omicron variant.

Despite repeated warnings from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus that coronavirus would destroy Africa, the continent has been among the least affected of the pandemic.

In an analysis published last weekThe WHO estimated that up to 65% of the population of Africa has been infected with coronavirus and said unlike many other regions, most people infected on the continent showed no symptoms.

Researchers at the WHO and elsewhere have speculated that factors, including Africa’s young population, the lower incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and warmer weather, may have helped it avoid a major wave of disease. Nevertheless, some countries have seen significant increases in the number of unexplained deaths, suggesting that the authorities were missing several COVID-19 cases.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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