WHO said it is the shortest spike since the pandemic began on the continent, with total cases exceeding 10.2 million.
Reported infections show that in the seven days leading up to January 9, the weekly rate has stabilized from the previous week.
– WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) January 13, 2022
“Early signs indicate that the fourth wave in Africa was sharp and short, but no less destabilizing.” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.
Omicron on record
In countries experiencing a spike in incidence, the rapidly spreading Omicron variant has become the predominant type.
According to the WHO, it took Delta about four weeks to surpass the previously dominant beta, with Omicron beating Delta in two weeks in the hardest-hit African countries.
South Africa has seen a huge rise in infections during the wave of the pandemic, but has recorded a 14 percent decline in the number of confirmed cases over the past week.
And in South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, weekly infections fell by nine percent.
While the East and Central African regions also saw a decrease in the number of cases, North and West Africa are seeing an increase in the number of infections, with North Africa reporting a 121 percent increase in the last week over the previous seven days.
“The critical response to the pandemic, much needed in Africa, is still in place and is expanding rapidly and significantly. COVID-19 vaccinations, ”said a senior WHO official. “The next wave may not be so forgiving.”
Needs a “concerted push”
Through training in bioinformatics, specimen handling and other key areas, WHO is supporting countries across the continent to strengthen genome sequencing to identify new mutations.
The organization also assists in the procurement and delivery of essential laboratory equipment and supplies.
So far, 30 African countries and at least 142 countries around the world have discovered the Omicron variant, while the Delta variant is registered in 42 African countries.
In West Africa, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, there is a growing number of Omicron sequences being conducted by countries such as Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
And Omicron is currently the dominant option in both Cape Verde and Nigeria.
“We have the know-how and the tools, and together we can certainly tip the scales in tackling the pandemic,” said Dr. Moeti.
Stem variants, inoculate
While the continent appears to be experiencing the latest wave of the pandemic, only about 10 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Recently, however, vaccine supply to Africa has improved and WHO is stepping up its support to countries to deliver doses to a wider population.
“This year should be a turning point in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Africa,” said Dr. Moeti.
“With huge sections of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and exposure of lethal variants are frighteningly small,” she added.