Rising mortality as Africa marks one year of COVID-19

United Nations published this video item, entitled “Rising mortality as Africa marks one year of COVID-19” – below is their description.

February 14 marks one year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Africa, so today we will look back over a year of achievements, challenges and learning as Africa responded to the pandemic.  


I am pleased to be joined by Her Excellency Dr Hala Zaid, Minister of Health and Population of Egypt. Egypt was the first country in Africa to detect a case of COVID-19 and Her Excellency Dr Zaid will share reflections on Egypt’s response to this virus over the past year.  Welcome Your Excellency. 


I’m also pleased to be joined by Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and veteran of the fight against viruses, who will share those experiences and speak about his experience as a COVID-19 survivor and about how Africa’s experience of this pandemic compares to other regions. Welcome Professor Piot. 


In the first year of this pandemic in Africa, more than 3.7 million cases have been reported and in the coming week the continent is projected to pass a devastating marker of 100,000 lives sadly lost to this virus. 


The African continent accounts for only 3.5% of global cases and 4% of global deaths. African countries have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 but at huge cost to national economies, livelihoods and development. In sub-Saharan Africa last year, the GDP fell by 2.6% and the IMF predicts that Africa will be the slowest-growing large region in 2021. The socio-economic impacts of this pandemic will have ongoing repercussions for several years in African countries. 


During the past year, Africa has experienced two waves of COVID-19. The first wave was contained relatively effectively with rapidly scaled-up public health capacities, social measures, like border closures and stay-at-home orders, innovative partnerships, including with the private sector, and the fortitude and perseverance of communities.  


To overcome shortages of essential supplies, WHO and partners created the UN Supply Portal which has shipped more than 3400 oxygen concentrators, 70 million items of personal protective equipment and 12 million laboratory tests to African countries. 


This second wave, which appears to have peaked in January, has been far more lethal than the first wave. Deaths from COVID-19 have increased by 40% in the last 28 days, compared to the previous 28 days. 


The increasing deaths from COVID-19 are a tragic warning that health workers and health systems in many countries in Africa are dangerously over-stretched. 


The one-year milestone comes as the continent faces the spread of new strains of virus. Variant B1351, first detected in South Africa, has been detected in eight African countries, while variant B117 identified in the United Kingdom, has been detected in six countries on the continent. 


This week South Africa announced that they will pause the roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because of a study indicating that the vaccine is less effective in preventing mild and moderate infection with the 501Y.V2 variant that is dominant in the country. 


Yesterday the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, known as SAGE strongly recommended that countries use the AstraZeneca vaccine, for priority groups, even if variants are present in a country, while further research is conducted. 


These preliminary findings highlight the urgent need for a coordinated approach for surveillance and evaluation of variants and their potential impact on vaccine effectiveness. WHO will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as new data become available. We will also be briefing countries and supporting their analysis of the situation for decisions about vaccine use. 


While a vaccine that protects against all forms of COVID-19 illness is our biggest hope, preventing severe cases and hospitalizations which overwhelm hospitals is crucial.  If cases remain mostly mild and moderate and don’t require critical care, then we can save many lives.  


So, my message is, go out and get vaccinated when a vaccine becomes available in your country. 


Ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and sustaining the public health measures are the critical priorities to overcome this crisis. 


In closing, I would also like to mention that the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported a new outbreak of Ebola in Butembo in North Kivu. So far two people have been confirmed with the disease and both have unfortunately died, and 200 contacts are being traced. 


Thank you once again for joining us and I look forward very much to our discussion.

United Nations YouTube Channel

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