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Africa virus rebound prompts appeal for vigilance

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-27 09:03

People queue at a COVID-19 testing center in Soweto, South Africa, last month. DENIS FARRELL/AP

Africa is experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant, and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is urging countries to maintain existing control and prevention measures such as wearing masks.

The continent reported nearly 35,000 new cases in the week ending June 19, 19 percent more than in the previous week, the CDC said.

The northern Africa region reported the highest number of new infections, accounting for 37 percent of the total, driven by increasing numbers of new cases in Morocco.

The southern Africa region reported the second-highest number of new cases, 26 percent, followed by the eastern region, 25 percent, the western region, 10 percent, and the central African region, 2 percent.

However, the number of deaths continued to fall, with 196 recorded in Africa during the week, compared with 203 in the previous week.

In light of the surging number of cases across the continent, Ahmed Ouma, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged member states to maintain COVID-19 measures including mask wearing.

He also urged African countries to increase surveillance, particularly in health facilities and at border points, to easily pick up any outbreak or hotspot. "We encourage countries to use their data carefully so that they are able to provide guidance to their citizens and visitors as appropriate to evolving circulation of COVID-19 variants within each country."

Twenty African countries are experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19, of which seven are experiencing a more severe wave. Kenya and Mauritius are experiencing a sixth wave.

On Wednesday, Susan Mochache, Kenya's health principal secretary, sounded an alarm over a possible spread of a mutated Omicron variant, which could be responsible for the surging number of cases of COVID-19 infections worldwide.

Mochache said the ministry of health is waiting for the pronouncement from the WHO on the Omicron variant mutation that has been picked up in the UK and which could be more deadly.

The Africa CDC has not documented any new variant yet and urged Kenya to follow the evidence to avoid the circulation of rumors that could cause unnecessary panic, Ouma said.

With COVID-19 vaccination still low in many African countries, Ouma also called for more participation from the public in vaccination campaigns. Africa has fully vaccinated less than 18 percent of its population.

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