AU warns of the danger still posed by the COVID-19 pandemic

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The Africa Centers for Disease Control And Prevention has warned of the danger still posed by the pandemic, despite many countries lifting restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But it has highlighted South Africa’s response to the omicron variant as a key factor in informing policy decisions, including the plan to hold the AU summit in person in February.

As more and more African Countries start to return to some normality amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Africa CDC is warning that danger is still present, despite many thinking that the pandemic phase of COVID-19 might soon be over.

Africa CDC Director, Dr. John Nkengasong, says he does not believe the number of deaths has been brought down enough.

“An endemic situation doesn’t mean that we leave with a high level of the disease of deaths. An endemic situation is where you have brought down the prevalence or a level that you can leave with, and I don’t believe that we have brought it down to a certain level that we can live with.”

Africa has registered over 10.4 million cases of COVID-19, and over 234,000 deaths so far. Only 10.4 % of the continent’s 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated, and a sharp recent increase in cases is being fueled by the Omicron variant.

Further pandemic waves

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that as long as the virus continues to circulate, further pandemic waves are inevitable and the continent must broaden its capacity to vaccinate and boost public health measures to prevent its spread.

The Africa CDC says a recent comprehensive analysis of the trend of COVID-19 in South Africa has greatly influenced leaders to feel safe to hold their annual African Union summit in Ethiopia this year physically, since 2019.

Nkengasong says, “South Africa did a remarkable thing at the end of last year. Where they looked at the data and said, “Well we are getting more infections from omicron but we are not seeing corresponding incidents in the number of deaths and we are not seeing our hospitals overwhelmed, so we will not impose additional restrictions. That is a big public health lesson to learn and it has inspired us to the extent that we looked at that data also and we were able to inform a decision that the next AU summit should be a face-to-face in Addis.”

Nkengasong says it is planning to impose strict measures for delegates during the February Summit.

“We impose that everybody coming for the meeting wear a mask, specifically the N-95 mask to ensure that we really diminish transmission. That person that comes with the delegations are vaccinated and we do routine testing every day.”

Amid the COVID -19 restrictions, Africa tackling the pandemic in a self-sufficient way is expected to be a major topic of discussion in the upcoming AU summit.

COVID-19 Pandemic | Africa CDC briefing on the latest statistics and response on the continent: