•In Kenya, pathologist Dr Ahmed Kalebi, who has been monitoring the trajectory, said although the fifth wave is on the downturn, reported deaths might not reduce immediately.
•While the continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, vaccinations remain low. Just around 10 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.
The wave of Omicron infections in Africa is flattening, making it the shortest, the World Health Organisation has said.
WHO said, like Kenya most African countries have recorded a 14 per cent decline in infections over the past week.
In Kenya, cases have reduced by more than half in the last two weeks, marking the end of the country’s fifth wave, which had peaked in December.
WHO said weekly Omicron cases across Africa plateaued in the seven days to January 9 from the week before.
Southern Africa, which saw a huge increase in infections during the pandemic wave, recorded a 14 per cent decline in infections over the past week.
South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, saw a 9 per cent fall in weekly infections.
Other East and Central Africa countries 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.
“Across the continent, though, deaths rose by 64 per cent in the seven days ending on January 9 compared with the week before mainly due to infections among people at high-risk,” WHO said in a statement on Thursday.
“Deaths in the fourth wave are lower than in the previous waves. Hospitalisations have remained low.”
In Kenya, pathologist Dr Ahmed Kalebi, who has been monitoring the trajectory, said although the fifth wave is on the downturn, reported deaths might not reduce immediately.
“Hospitalisation and deaths which lag behind the new infections will continue to rise for while. Fortunately, ICU admissions have plateaued. Overall we can be optimistic that the Omicron fifth wave is on the downturn,” he said.
In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type.
While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries.
In Kenya, it was a matter of days. Scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute who performed genetic sequencing detected the new, highly transmissible Omicron variant on December 15.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced on December 19 that the Omicron variant was now dominant in Kenya.
“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,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said.
23 African countries recorded a high positivity rate of over 10 per cent over the past week.
In Kenya, the positivity rate has hovered around 15 per cent.
Across Africa, WHO is supporting countries to bolster genomic sequencing through training in key areas such as bioinformatics and specimen handling.
The organisation is helping procure and deliver critical laboratory equipment and supplies to countries.
So far 30 African countries and at least 142 globally, have detected the Omicron variant. The Delta variant has been reported in 42 countries in Africa.
While the continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, vaccinations remain low. Just around 10 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.
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.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris