JOHANNESBURG, June 2 (Reuters) – Deaths on the African continent from COVID-19 are expected to fall by nearly 94 percent in 2022 compared to last year, modelling by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed on Thursday.
2021 was the pandemic’s most deadly year in Africa, with COVID-19 the seventh major cause of death, just below malaria.
“Our latest analysis suggests that estimated deaths in the African region will shrink to around 60 a day in 2022. … Last year, we lost an average of 970 people every day,” WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti told a virtual news conference.
The gulf in the numbers is due to increased vaccination, improved pandemic response and natural immunity from prior infections, the WHO said.
COVID deaths in Africa have been uneven. Richer countries and southern African nations have had around double the mortality rates of poorer ones in other parts of Africa, partly due to co-morbidities that increase the risk of death, the WHO analysis found.
Around 23,000 deaths are expected by the end of the year, provided current variants and transmission patterns remain the same, according to the analysis.
The findings infer that only one in 71 COVID-19 cases are recorded in Africa and that about one in three deaths have been missed.
Although African countries struggled early in the pandemic to secure COVID vaccines as rich countries hoarded available doses, many are now well-supplied with shots but are having trouble getting them into arms. The reasons include hesitancy and logistics.
As of the end of May, Africa had reported over 11.8 million confirmed COVID cases and more than 250,000 deaths.
“The job is not yet done. Every time we sit back and relax, COVID-19 flares up again. The threat of new variants remains real, and we need to be ready to cope with this ever-present danger,” Moeti told the briefing.
(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia Chege and Tomasz Janowski)