Daily new infections across the continent were approximately 30% higher during the second wave, according to the study published in The Lancet journal. Its authors say it is the first comprehensive continent-wide analysis of the pandemic in Africa.
“These insights also reveal a need to improve testing capacity and reinvigorate public health campaigns, to re-emphasize the importance of abiding by measures that aim to strike a fine balance between controlling the spread of Covid-19 and sustaining economies and people’s livelihoods,” he added in a statement.
However, Nkengasong told CNN public health measures alone will not be enough to stop further waves of the pandemic in Africa. “Without urgent scale-up of the vaccines, we will definitely see the third wave, which has already started in some African countries,” he said.
“Vaccines protectionism will definitely make the situation worse, and … will be detrimental to the global efforts to win the battle against Covid 19,” he added.
African countries are largely relying on the COVAX scheme, a global vaccine-sharing initiative that provides discounted or free doses for lower-income countries. The supply is very limited, though. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 90 million doses will be provided to Africa in the first half of this year. That’s enough to immunize just 3% of the continent’s population. As more vaccines become available, the aim is to vaccinate at least 20% by the end of the year, WHO said.
Several countries hit very hard
Of the nearly 3 million Covid-19 cases and more than 65,000 deaths reported in Africa between mid February 2020 and the end of the year, more than 82% were reported in just nine countries. South Africa was the hardest hit, with more than 38% of all African cases reported there. Morocco saw nearly 16% of all cases while Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia reported around 5% of total cases each.
Cape Verde, South Africa and Libya were the three countries that reported the highest cumulative incidence rates, while 18 of the 55 states reported higher case fatality ratio than the global average, meaning a higher proportion of those officially diagnosed with Covid-19 have died.
The authors of the study said that early intervention in many African countries kept the first wave of the pandemic relatively under control.