Many African countries have been widely praised for their effective response to curbing the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Countries in the continent had from the onset of the pandemic implemented social distancing measures to control the spread of the virus and had from around August been reporting a decline in daily cases and deaths.
Against expectations, Africa has so far recorded a far lower tally of Covid-19 cases and deaths compared to Europe, Asia, the Americas, or the Middle East. The continent which accounts for about 18% of the global population, only accounts for about 3.2% of Covid-19 cases and 2.5% of deaths by the diseases globally.
But in recent weeks, there has been a resurgence in new cases and deaths in the continent.
As the US and European countries report a resurgence of cases in what is being referred to as the “second wave,” the resurgence of cases in some African countries is viewed as the potential beginning of a second wave across the continent.
There has been a resurgence in Egypt, DR Congo, and South Africa that may be the beginning of a second wave, but in Kenya, the picture looks different. Kenya appears to be fully experiencing a second wave. Over 1,500 new cases were reported in November surpassing those recorded (less than 1000 cases) during the worst time of the pandemic in the country before a decline in August.
Kenya has lost 31 workers to Covid-19, including nine doctors—four died in November. The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union has threatened a national strike from this weekend (Dec. 6) if the government did not provide protective equipment and medical insurance for its members, and compensation for health workers who die from Covid-19.
Professor Kevin Marsh, a senior advisor and co-lead of the Covid-19 team at the African Academy of Sciences says calling these resurgences in Kenya and South Africa, a second wave depends on how one defines it.
“There is certainly a rise in cases and deaths in both countries following an initial drop. In Kenya, it is not clear if this is a genuine rise in transmission or whether it reflects cases from further afield coming into urban centers following the relaxation of restrictions on movement,” he says.
South Africa, which has reported the highest cases and deaths in Africa due to risk factors such as an older population and a high rate of HIV and tuberculosis infections, had been able to drastically reduced the number of daily cases and death. However, in the recent week alone, the number of new cases has increased from around 2000 to over 4000.
“It looks like there is a resurgence or an increase in the number of infections as compared to a few weeks ago,” says professor Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). “This uptick could be the beginning of a new surge. The next peak will depend on interventions implemented to try and reduce community transmission.”
Gray says there is a discrepancy between the number of deaths that were expected by this time this year in South Africa and what is being observed. That is, there are more deaths in the country due to Covid-19 than is expected.
She says this could be due to under-reporting of COVID-19 in death certificates, people dying of Covid-19 without a diagnosis, and collateral deaths from diseases such as HIV and Tuberculosis at home.
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