Deaths from COVID-19 expected to fall 94% in Africa by year’s end: WHO

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COVID-19 deaths in the African region are expected to decline by almost 94% in 2022, compared with 2021 which was the pandemic’s most lethal year, a new modelling by World Health Organization (WHO) finds, although the emergence of new, more deadly variants could halt the decline.

“The new analysis anticipates a decline of almost 94% in that number for the region by the end of 2022. While the advances in reducing death rates is a huge achievement, and testament to the unwavering efforts of countries and partners, that number is still unacceptably high,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, at an online press conference on Thursday.

The analysis, which was published this week in the scientific journal, the Lancet Global Health, finds that while the region reported 113,102 deaths in 2021 through official channels, about one in three deaths were missed and the true number of deaths was above 350,000 – around 970 per day.

The modelling suggests that around 23,000 deaths are expected by the end of 2022, around 60 a day, if current variants and transmission dynamics remain constant.

However, a variant that is 200% more lethal would cause an increase in deaths to more than 70,000.

A significant number of cases have also gone unreported. The study’s findings infer that only one in 71 COVID-19 cases in the region are recorded and 166. 2 million infections are anticipated in 2022 compared with the estimated 227.5 million which occurred in 2021.

The gap in number of cases and deaths in 2022 is due to increasing vaccination, improved pandemic response and natural immunity from previous infections which, while not preventing re-infections, stop severe forms of the disease and deaths.