BRAZZAVILLE, 21 December 2020 – Spikes in COVID-19 infections have raised fresh concerns that Africa may be in the midst of a second wave of the new coronavirus pandemic.
Cases have been rising in Africa’s most populous countries since late September, according to data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
New weekly cases have gone up by an average of 6.1 percent each week over the month period from 13 November through last December 13, according to CDC and WHO data.
The spikes are not homogenous across the very diverse continent.
South Africa alone now accounts for more than 60 percent of all daily cases detected in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A majority of those newly infected in South Africa are aged between 15 and 19 years, according to the country’s health ministry.
Big celebrations and parties at which masks are not worn and social distancing guidelines are not followed have been blamed for wild spikes in four provinces – West Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Province.
South Africa’s daily deaths had increased by 19 percent in the four weeks to last December 6, leading the government to introduce new and stricter restrictions.
The surge in infections is driven, in part, by a new variant of coronavirus detected in South Africa in early December 2020.
The South African variant shares some of the same mutations as a variant in the United Kingdom which, this week, led 40 countries to ban travel to or from the United Kingdom.
Infections are also rising rapidly across North African, where temperatures have been dropping as winter approaches or sets in.
Morocco has seen the biggest increase in infections across the Maghreb Region.
Cases are also rising rapidly in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, DR Congo and Uganda.
“Clearly, the second wave is here,” said Africa CDC’s John Nkengasong.
“My speculation is that by January or February (2021), we will be where we were at the peak of this pandemic in July,” Nkengasong has warned.
The death rate per capita across Africa has been low compared with other parts of the world, despite Africa’s weak or inexistent health infrastructure.
More than 60 percent of Africa’s population is young – meaning under the age of 25.
Some of the deaths from COVID-19 may be under-estimated given that only ten countries on the continent (South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana) account for 70 percent of total tests conducted so far.