NAIROBI, 21 February 2021 – Africa has surpassed a grim milestone, reporting a combined death toll of over 100,000 from the new coronavirus pandemic as of last Friday.
“We are beginning to normalize deaths,” the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong, told the Associated Press (AP) in an interview in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
AfricaCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) putthe continent-wide overall death toll from the virus at 100,294.
Nearly 700 more deaths were added to that tally Saturday when the most updated data on the continent read 3.81 million confirmed cases, 3.37 full recoveries and 100,993 deaths.
Africa has been largely spared the worst impact of the virus, Dr. Nkengasong admitted during the interview with the Associated Press, lamenting the over 100,000 deaths so far as “remarkably painful”.
South Africa alone accounts for nearly half of the deaths on the continent – a high 48,940 fatalities in the Rainbow Nation alone as of Saturday, 20 February 2020, according to WHO data.
With hospitals and healthcare professionals increasingly overwhelmed with rising COVID-19 patients and deaths, he cautioned against complacency.
“We are more vulnerable than we thought,” Dr. Nkengasong said.
Public health experts expected Africa to be drowning in COVID-19 deaths at the onset of the pandemic.
An early estimate by the United Nations predicted up to 3.3 million deaths in Africa, if no interventions were put in place.
Leading epidemiologists and other public health experts were in panic that measures like social distancing measures would be flouted on a continent where people love to shake hands, hug, laugh, make merry, and take great delight in mingling and socializing.
Not all of the panic is gone. Even now, health experts are stuck in pessimistic or guardedly optimistic predictions about the pandemic in Africa.
The new fears are heightened by concerns that only few of the continent’s 54 nations have ordered, purchased, secured or received COVID-19 vaccines in quantities even enough to inoculate five percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion people.
If doses are available, Dr. Nkengasong said he believes the continent can vaccinate between 35 percent to 40 percent of the population before the end of 2021 and up to 60 percent by the end of 2022.
A total of 111 million people have been infected with COVID-19 worldwide as of Sunday, 21 February 2021, with 62.7 million full recoveries and total of 2.46 million confirmed deaths, according to data from WHO, Africa CDC and Johns Hopkins University Hospital.