11 African countries report Omicron COVID-19 variant cases

AFRICA – The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has disclosed that some 11 African countries have so far reported Omicron COVID-19 variant cases.

John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, told journalists in his periodic briefing that seven additional African countries have reported the Omicron variant during the past week, bringing the overall continental tally to 11.

The countries include South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Tunisia, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, according to the Africa CDC.

Africa recorded more than 107 000 cases in the week ending on 5 December, up from around 55 000. Five countries accounted for 86% of the cases reported over the past week and all the sub-regions in the continent – up from one the previous week – reported increases in new cases. Southern Africa recorded the highest increase with a 140% hike mainly driven by an uptick in South Africa.

On Wednesday, the African Union (AU) had warned that travel and entry bans in connection with the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant limit the free movement of people and goods, imposing immediate and significant impact on African countries.

The 55-member pan African bloc called for the urgent rescinding of travel bans placed on southern African countries following the detection of the Omicron variant.

Current evidence, which underscores global spread and community transmission of the Omicron variant, does not support selective travel bans imposed on Southern African countries,” the statement read.

It said that penalizing African countries for ensuring timely and transparent data dissemination in accordance with international health regulations acts as a disincentive for information sharing in the future, potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally.

The AU stressed that recent travel and entry bans are imposing an adverse impact on the economy which will negatively affect the lives and livelihoods of populations concerned.

It further indicated that the travel ban created limited the capacity to access essential medical supplies needed to respond to the ongoing upsurge of cases.

The Omicron variant is reaching more countries in Africa and weekly COVID-19 cases in the continent surged by 93%. However, there are signs of hope as preliminary data indicates that hospitalizations across South Africa remain low.

Africa currently accounts for 46% of the nearly 1000 Omicron cases reported by 57 countries across different regions of the world. So far, 10 African countries have reported cases. Despite the widespread global presence of Omicron, more than 70 countries have imposed travel bans that are mainly targeting southern African countries – some of which have yet to report any Omicron case.

Africa has so far received more than 372 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and administered 248 million. That represents only 3% of the 8.2 billion doses given globally. Although the pace of vaccination has increased in recent months, only 7.8% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.

Many African countries have yet to administer most of their vaccine supplies. Only 10 countries, down from 12 the previous week, have less than 10 doses available per 100 people. Considering vaccines received eight or more weeks ago, 27 countries have used at least 80% of the doses received. Twenty-three countries have used between 50 and 79%, and two have used less than 50% of doses received.

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