For the third week in a row, Southern Africa has seen an increase in COVID-19 infections. The increase comes after a two-month reduction in total infections throughout the continent.

In the week ending May 8, 2022, the sub-region had 46 271 occurrences, up 32% from the previous week. The surge is mostly due to a two-fold spike in weekly cases in South Africa during the preceding three weeks. In contrast, deaths have not grown at the same rate. In the last three weeks, South Africa has recorded 376 deaths, more than double the prior three weeks.

Despite the increase in instances, hospitalization remains minimal in South Africa, with the number of patients hospitalized testing positive for COVID-19 presently at roughly 20% of the high in late December 2021. Hospitalizations and in-hospital mortality both climbed by 90-100 percent in the preceding two weeks in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, where the newest wave was initially spotted.

Despite insufficient public health and social initiatives, the Omicron variant is propelling the current growth. There have been 5703 cases of sub-variant BA.4, 1369 cases of Omicron sub-variant BA.2, and 222 cases of sub-variant BA documented in South Africa alone since the beginning of April. 

Apart from Eswatini, South Africa, and Namibia have both reported a 50% increase in new cases in the last two weeks compared to the previous two weeks.

Africa’s previous four pandemic waves, which all occurred around the middle and end of the year, were driven by 19 fluctuations, cold seasons, and greater population travel around these holiday times. The Delta-fueled mid-year surge began about May 2021, with the emergence of Omicron in late November 2021.

In the last two years, African countries have made significant progress in eradicating COVID-19, with important components such as monitoring, testing, and treatment being improved. If COVID-19 incidents spread to other nations, it is critical that these processes be maintained and promptly scaled up.

Genomic sequencing has increased across the continent. African laboratories submitted roughly 9000 sequences between January and April 2021. In the same time period this year, the number nearly doubled, hitting over 40,000.

When the number of cases decreased early this year, governments reduced public health initiatives, including surveillance. Testing has dropped as well. Between March and May 2022, just 30% of the nations that supplied testing data satisfied the WHO’s threshold of 10 tests per 10,000 people each week. This is down from 40% in the months of 2021 between the waves caused by Delta and Omicron.

Africa has had 11.7 million cases and 253 000 deaths so far. In the week ending May 8, the continent had 52 878 cases, up 38% from the previous week.

APO Group hosted a virtual news conference for Dr. Gueye today. Professor Placide Mbala, Head of the Epidemiology Department in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Specialist Pathologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa Dr. Kerrigan McCarthy, were also present.

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