Regional officials from the World Health Organization warned Thursday that coronavirus cases are rising and that vaccination efforts are slowing in some African countries. To stop the pandemic in Africa.
Precautions like mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing have declined drastically in many countries as people become inured to the pandemic and government officials push for a return to normal life, Dr. Pamela Mitula, an epidemiologist and vaccine specialist with the W.H.O.’s regional office for Africa, said at a news conference. Many countries have relaxed their Covid-19 policies over the past few months, including Schools are fully reopeneduniversities by removing mask mandates, allowing large elections, and suspending testing requirements for international travelers.
“On this apathy, what we would say is that countries should really be encouraged and reminded that the pandemic is far from over,” Dr. Mitula said. “They need to be vigilant.”
Africa has reported more than 12 million virus cases and 255,442 deaths from Covid-19 so far, according to the W.H.O., and both figures almost certainly understate the pandemic’s true toll.
Highly transmissible Omicron virus subvariants are causing a tsunami of infections on the continent. This is especially true in North Africa where the number of new cases increased by 17 percent last week according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti of the W.H.O. Africa regional director.
Dr. Moeti said she expected the upward trend in North Africa — concentrated so far in Morocco and Tunisia — to start to recede in the next few weeks, as happened recently in southern African nations like Namibia and Botswana, because of improved detection and response mechanisms.
She said that the risk of more viral outbreaks should be enough to make countries vaccinate more people, especially older residents and those with underlying medical conditions. As of July 10, just 21.1 percent of Africa’s 1.2 billion population was fully vaccinated, according to the W.H.O.
“This phase of the pandemic may well be characterized by relatively low incidence and much lower risk for hospitalization and death,” Dr. Moeti said, “but the Omicron variant remains highly transmissible.”