2021-10-14 20:04:29 Most Covid Cases in Africa Go Undetected, W.H.O. Says

Most Covid Cases in Africa Go Undetected, W.H.O. Says

Official data on coronavirus cases in Africa give the impression that the continent escaped the worst of the pandemic. However, in a continent where most deaths are not formally recorded and many countries are struggling to vaccinate their citizens, the vast majority of coronavirus cases — an estimated six out of seven — go undetected, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Africa director.

Dr. Moeti said at a news conference on Thursday that the World Health Organization estimated that 59 million people in Africa had been infected with the coronavirus between the start of the pandemic and Oct. 10. Only about 8 million cases have been officially recorded.

“Now is the time to go on the offensive against Covid-19 and collaborate with local communities to break transmission chains and prevent larger outbreaks,” Dr. Moeti said.

The World Health Organization’s analysis was based on a coronavirus calculator developed by Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health organization specializing in cardiovascular disease and epidemic prevention. According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus calculator estimates infections based on the number of reported cases and deaths, as well as “an infection fatality rate grounded in population-based studies.”

Africa continues to have the lowest vaccination rates. According to the World Health Organization, only 2% of the population in nearly half of the African countries that have received Covid-19 vaccines has been fully vaccinated.

With limited testing available, many African communities, according to Dr. Moeti, were “flying blind,” with asymptomatic people passing on the virus without realizing it.

She announced a community-based initiative to improve coronavirus testing in eight countries: Burundi, Ivory Coast, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zambia, in an effort to reduce transmission. The initiative includes expanding the use of antigen detection, a low-cost test that produces results in about 15 minutes, as well as a “ring-based” strategy of voluntary testing for anyone living within 100 meters of a positive case.

Coronavirus cases appeared to be trending “downward or plateauing” in most African countries, according to Dr. Moeti, though some, including Angola, Gabon, and Cameroon, were still reporting increases. In Rwanda, which had imposed one of the continent’s strictest curfews, bars reopened in late September after being closed for 18 months.

In addition, several African countries are dealing with outbreaks of other infectious diseases, including the lethal Ebola virus. In August, the Ivory Coast confirmed its first Ebola case in nearly 30 years, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has since reported two fatal Ebola cases, according to Dr. Moeti. Guinea experienced an outbreak early in the year.

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Most Covid Cases in Africa Go Undetected, W.H.O. Says