Africa’s CDC chief calls for increased COVID-19 testing amid worrisome rise in cases
The head of Africa’s top public health institute is urging authorities across the continent to step up COVID-19 testing amid a worrying rise in new cases in some countries.
The continent of 1.3 billion people saw a 37 percent increase in new cases over the past week, Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.
Over the past four weeks there has been an 11% increase in new cases, he said.
“Covid is still very much here with us and in fact when we look at the numbers we see that there are some member states that are really entering a new wave and we are monitoring that closely,” he said. “When we have a clear analysis, next week we will be able to let you know if the new waves are sustained or if they have been brought under control quickly.”
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He did not mention which countries are facing a new wave of infections, but South Africa is one of them. Africa’s most advanced economy has been hardest hit by COVID-19, the source of most confirmed cases and deaths.
COVID-19 has infected 12.1 million people in Africa’s 54 nations, accounting for 2% of cases worldwide, and at least 256,000 have died, according to figures from Africa’s CDC.
Vaccination rates in Africa remain low, largely due to shortages of supplies and also partly due to reluctance among some. Only 25% of the African population is fully vaccinated and less than 3% have received booster doses.
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Amid “this phenomenon we’re seeing the numbers go up,” Ogwell said, national health authorities should focus on testing more people for COVID-19.
“When we see numbers going up and testing relatively low, it’s an indication that we need to be careful in public,” he said. “And we also need to vaccinate to prevent serious illness and even death when one is exposed to COVID. We know what to do.”