African countries have faced a number of challenges since the first outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in February 2020, including the impact of lockdowns on economies and livelihoods, and inequities in accessing vaccines.
“Over the past two years, the African continent has gotten smarter, faster, and better at responding to each new surge in cases of Covid-19,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
A new phase of the pandemic
Africa has battled four waves of the highly transmissible virus. The WHO Africa office said each wave of the coronavirus had come “with higher peaks or more total new cases than the previous one.” But compared to previous waves, the fourth wave “was over in six weeks” and “represents the first time a wave’s surge in cases has not led to a commensurate increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” WHO stated.
Moeti, however, acknowledged that Africa’s Covid infection rates could be much higher than the known figures.
“We’re very much aware that our surveillance systems problems that we had on the continent, with access to testing supplies… have led to an underestimation of the cases,” she said.
Moeti added that as Africa transitions into a new phase of the pandemic, the continent must strengthen its health systems so it is better prepared to manage future waves of infections.
The WHO Africa office said it was spearheading an initiative in 15 African countries to ramp up Covid testing and provide infection prevention tools such as face masks and hand gels.