Burden of Covid-19 in Southern Africa: Africa CDC

The burden of Covid-19 is in Southern Africa, as the region has more than 100 cases per million that are reported per day, Deputy Director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma has said.

This comes as some countries across Africa continue to record increases in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, coupled by concerns of a new variant of coronavirus in South Africa called the 501Y.V2  reported on December 18 last year.

Statistics from countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa show daily new case numbers have now passed the peak of mid-July last year, and are still rising with concerns that the infections are driven in part by this new strain.

Officials in Zimbabwe have said there is a huge chance the new Covid-19 variant strain has entered the country due to high numbers of infections recorded since the start of 2021.


Both Zimbabwe and South Africa have since announced new lockdown restrictions with the latter closing its land borders.

Addressing journalists from sub-Sahara recently on Africa’s Covid-19 epidemiological outlook, Dr Ogwell said for a balanced update, Africa CDC was looking at coronavirus cases reported as per a million population per day to show the burden of the disease in a country.

“Six countries have more than 100 cases per million and you will see that southern Africa is  heavily represented in this group,” he said.

“43 countries have less than 100 cases per million reported every day and this is the vast majority of countries in Africa, which is good news as it shows we still have a very good chance if we pool resources and act in solidarity across Africa, we can keep numbers relatively lower.”

The Africa CDC official said looking at the continent in general could provide a false picture, as countries were diverse, with different strengths, cultures, which applied to the Covid-19 outlook.

“If you zero in, one country has reported over a million cases and that is South Africa. We have nine countries with 50 000 to 500 000 cases, nine countries with 5 000 to 10 000 cases, 17 countries with 10 000 to 50 000 and 19 countries with less than 5 000 cases,” he said.

As for Africa’s case fatality rate, which was the proportion of people who die from Covid-19 among all individuals diagnosed with the disease over a certain period of time, stands at 2.5 who die per 100 000 population, which Dr Ogwell said had to be brought down as the global case fatality rate stood around  2.2 to 2.3.

“Death has always been more or less the measure of how really bad a situation is. When we look at the case fatality rate which is really the number of individuals dying compared to those who are infected by the virus again the picture in Africa changes a bit.

“If you look at Africa you see that Southern Africa is more heavily represented per million cases reported but when you look at the case fatality rate you will see that Southern Africa is not as heavily represented as Northern and Western Africa, who take up this lead as far as case fatality rate is concerned,” Dr Ogwell said.

However, Dr Ogwell noted that most of the African member states – 34 countries out of 54 had a case fatality rate of 2 people dying out of 100 000 people.

“But all the other countries, and that is a very healthy 20 countries are above the 2.3 case fatality rate but this means we really need to work to bring the case fatality rate even lower,” said the health expert.

According to Africa CDC, there are 15 countries reporting a case fatality of 2.4 per 100 000 population and in southern African, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Malawi are among those countries.

On January 13, 2021, Zimbabwe recorded its highest number of single-day Covid-19 deaths after 38 people succumbed to the deadly pandemic, bringing the death toll to 589.

Zimbabwe also recorded 1017 new cases in the last 24 hours, of which all cases were from local transmissions.

South Africa has so far recorded 35 140 Covid-19 deaths from 1.28 million confirmed cases, as of January 13, 2021 while Malawi has 254 deaths out of 9400 confirmed cases for the same period.

Dr Ogwell said for Africa to maintain the gains that have been achieved fighting Covid-19, it was “very” important to have continuous engagement with the public about the preventative measures so that there was no complacency.

“We don’t have to feel as if we have done well, we should not feel tired in doing important measures that we need to do, to keep numbers low and these measures are important as they cover whatever coronavirus variant a country may be experiencing, this is until we have a vaccine. The second wave is with us in Africa and as I indicated, not all countries have been hit somehow but in total the second wave is in Africa so we really not be complacent,” he said.

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