COVID-related deaths in Africa set to fall – WHO

COVID-related deaths in Africa set to fall – WHO
Covid-19 virus strand. [Photo: Courtesy]

COVID-19 deaths in the African region are expected to decline by almost 94% in 2022 compared with 2021, which was the pandemic’s most lethal year, a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) finds.

This comes while cases are estimated to drop by a little over a quarter this year.

The analysis, which was published this week in the scientific journal Lancet Global Health, finds that while the region reported 113 102 deaths in 2021 through official channels, about one in three deaths were missed and the true number of deaths was 350 000.

The modelling suggests that around 23 000 deaths are expected by the end of 2022 if current variants and transmission dynamics remain constant. However, a variant that is 200% more lethal would cause an increase in deaths to more than 70 000.

“Last year, we lost an average of 970 people every day. This is a catastrophically high toll,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Our latest analysis suggests that estimated deaths in the African region will shrink to around 60 a day in 2022.

The low number of deaths expected this year is a huge achievement for the region and a testament to the efforts of countries and partners. However, the job is not yet done. Every time we sit back and relax, COVID-19 flares up again. The threat of new variants remains real, and we need to be ready to cope with this ever-present danger.”

A significant number of cases have also gone unreported. The study’s findings infer that only one in 71 COVID-19 cases in the region are recorded and 166. 2 million infections are anticipated in 2022 compared with the estimated 227.5 million that occurred in 2021.

The gap in the number of cases and deaths in 2022 is due to increasing vaccination, improved pandemic response and natural immunity from previous infections, which, while not preventing re-infections, stop severe forms of the disease and deaths.

In 2021, the African region experienced a particularly deadly pandemic, with the analysis estimating that COVID-19 was the seventh major cause of death, just below malaria, while in 2020, the virus was the 22nd major cause of deaths in the region.

The significant increase in deaths in 2021 was due to the delta variant which was more infectious and caused more severe disease.