Brazzaville, Jan 21 (IANS): Weekly Covid-19 cases in Africa have dropped significantly and deaths dipped for the first time since the peak of the fourth wave of the pandemic propelled by the Omicron variant, said the World Health Organization (WHO).
New cases fell by 20 per cent in the week ending on January 16, while deaths dropped by 8 per cent, Xinhua news agency quoted a statement issued by the WHO's Regional Office for Africa here.
According to the WHO, South Africa, where Omicron was first sequenced, has recorded a downward trend over the past four weeks, while only north Africa reported an increase in cases over the past week, with a 55 per cent spike.
The Omicron-fuelled pandemic wave has resulted in the lowest cumulative average case fatality ratio, the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases, to date in Africa, standing at 0.68 per cent compared with the three previous waves during which the case fatality ratio was above 2.4 per cent.
"While the acceleration, peak and decline of this wave have been unmatched, its impact has been moderate, and Africa is emerging with fewer deaths and lower hospitalizations. But the continent has yet to turn the tables on this pandemic," warned Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, noting that the continent needs to brace for further waves.
"So long as the virus continues to circulate, further pandemic waves are inevitable. Africa must not only broaden vaccinations, but also gain increased and equitable access to critical Covid-19 therapeutics to save lives and effectively combat this pandemic," Moeti said.
The African region's current case fatality ratio remains the highest in the world, as availability of medical oxygen and Covid-19 vaccines remains a challenge across the continent, reads the statement.
"The deep inequity that left Africa at the back of the queue for vaccines must not be repeated with life-saving treatments. Universal access to diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics will pave the shortest path to the end of this pandemic and no region of the world should be left on the fringes of this endeavour," said Moeti.
In Africa, while vaccine supplies have been on the rise in recent months, the rate of vaccination still remains low, with just 10 per cent of the continent's population fully vaccinated.
Africa has so far received about 500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and administered 327 million, said the WHO.