New daily infections across the continent were about 30% higher in Wave 2, according to the study published in The Lancet. Its authors say this is the first comprehensive continent-wide analysis of the pandemic in Africa.
Data showed that while an average of 18,273 new daily cases were reported across the continent during the outbreak’s first peak in mid-July, that number rose to an average of 23,790 by the end of December, while 36 of the 55 states had experienced or were experiencing a second wave.
Dr John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the study’s authors, said the more aggressive second wave was likely caused by several factors, including less adherence to measures. such as mask-wearing and social distancing, as well as the emergence of new, more infectious variants.
“This information also reveals the need to improve screening capacity and revitalize public health campaigns, in order to re-emphasize the importance of respecting measures aimed at finding a fair balance between controlling the spread of Covid- 19 and the maintenance of the economies and means of subsistence of the populations ”. he added in a statement.
“Vaccine protectionism will certainly worsen the situation and… be detrimental to global efforts to win the battle against Covid 19,” he added.
African countries are lagging behind the rest of the world in the roll-out of immunization, as the majority of countries on the continent have yet to receive vaccines.
African countries rely heavily on the COVAX program, a global vaccine-sharing initiative that provides low-cost or free doses to low-income countries. The offer is however very limited. According to the World Health Organization, around 90 million doses will be delivered to Africa in the first half of this year. This is enough to immunize only 3% of the continent’s population. As more vaccines become available, the goal is to vaccinate at least 20% by the end of the year, the WHO said.
By comparison, the United States plans to make the vaccines available to all adults by May 1. The UK has already vaccinated more than half of all adults and aims to make the vaccine available to all by the end of July. The European Union announced Wednesday that it wants to vaccinate 70% of its citizens by the end of the summer.
Several countries have been hit very hard
The study says that while the number of cases and deaths in Africa as a whole are still low compared to many other parts of the world, several countries have experienced very high infection rates.
Of the nearly 3 million cases of Covid-19 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 has been the hardest hit, with more than 38% of all African cases reported there. Morocco recorded nearly 16% of all cases, while Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia reported around 5% of total cases each.
Cape Verde, South Africa and Libya are the three countries that reported the highest cumulative incidence rates, while 18 of the 55 states reported a case fatality rate higher than the global average, this which means that a higher proportion of people officially diagnosed with Covid-19 have died.
The study authors said early intervention in many African countries kept the first wave of the pandemic relatively under control.
Writing for CNN last year, Yale economist Mushfiq Mubarak said the experience of dealing with past outbreaks had prompted several African leaders to react quickly.
Senegal, Rwanda, Mauritius and Liberia began planning their response as soon as virus alerts were sent internationally and began screening and quarantining travelers at the airport. Ghana and Nigeria have banned travel between cities and implemented curfews.
Mubarak added that many African countries have also focused on expanding testing and contact tracing very early in the pandemic. Senegal built an infrastructure that made it possible to generate coronavirus test results within 24 hours. Rwanda and Sierra Leone reused their HIV and Ebola equipment for coronavirus monitoring, testing and quarantine. South Africa, Cameroon, Mauritania, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and parts of Nigeria have implemented large-scale community door-to-door campaigns to test, treat and isolate potential patients of Covid.
Looking at the 50 states for which data on public health and social measures were available, the researchers found that 36 had strict restrictions in place an average of 15 days before reporting their first case. The other 14 countries implemented them on average just nine days after their first case of coronavirus – which is still much earlier than many other countries in the world.
The vast majority of countries had five or more measures in place, including international travel controls, school closures and bans on holding public events and mass gatherings.
However, the researchers found that even though the second wave of the epidemic was more severe, it led to fewer and less stringent public health measures. They said to prevent further waves of the coronavirus pandemic from escalating, African leaders must double down on public health measures and work to improve their testing capabilities.
CNN’s Stephanie Busari and Nimi Prince contributed reporting.