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African infections top 10m amid Omicron's march

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-11 09:02

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus disease vaccine to a teenager, amidst the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec 9, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The number of COVID-19 infections in Africa has shot past 10 million as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the continent.

Thirty-three African countries have reported infections caused by the highly contagious variant, with the greatest caseloads in southern Africa.

Data from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention released on Sunday showed that as of Saturday evening, the number of confirmed cases in Africa has reached 10,028,508 while the death toll stands at 231,157.

South Africa has recorded the most COVID-19 cases in Africa with 3,521,572 cases, followed by Morocco at 997,121 and Tunisia at 741,295, according to the Africa CDC.

John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa CDC, had praised South Africa's scientists for sharing the data on Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa. He said the scientists' efforts have helped the world to learn more about the new strain.

Nkengasong said he was encouraged by a transmission trend that saw Omicron infections rise steeply, but fall back. That pattern enabled South Africa to avoid imposing another lockdown.

He said other African countries can learn from South Africa's experience in managing an outbreak without resorting to social restrictions.

Data from the Africa CDC indicates that 52 African countries have experienced a third wave of the pandemic, and some are now contending with additional waves.

Nkengasong said an emergency with other variants is expected in the continent going forward, unless vaccinations are done at speed and scale and people continue to observe public health measures.

Warning issued

With the rising caseloads in Africa, the International Monetary Fund warned that developing economies are likely to come under increasing strain. The fund, which is scheduled to release updated economic forecasts on Jan 25, said the broader global economic recovery from the pandemic should continue into next year.

But "risks to growth remain elevated by the stubbornly resurgent pandemic", IMF economists Stephan Danninger, Kenneth Kang and Helene Poirson wrote in a blog post.

The Omicron strain has spread like wildfire around the world since mid-December, causing record numbers of new cases in the latest wave of the global health crisis.

Omicron, which seems to cause less severe disease than previous strains of the coronavirus, is causing countries to reinstitute health measures that hamper economic growth.

On Monday, Australia surpassed 1 million cases, with more than half of them recorded in the past week, as the Omicron variant ripped across the country and drove up hospitalizations.

With the states of New South Wales and Victoria on Monday reporting about 55,000 new cases between them, total COVID-19 infections in Australia touched 1.03 million.

Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.

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