Africa’s COVID-19 infections approach 9 million as more countries record Omicron cases

People wait for COVID-19 vaccination at Soweto's Baragwanath hospital Monday Dec. 13, 2021. (Photo by Jerome Delay via CFP)
People wait for COVID-19 vaccination at Soweto’s Baragwanath hospital Monday Dec. 13, 2021. (Photo by Jerome Delay via CFP)

The number of COVID-19 infections in Africa reached 8,993,087 on Wednesday as more countries on the continent continue to report cases of the Omicron variant.

Data published by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the continent had also recorded 225,661 virus-related fatalities.

The Omicron COVID-19 variant, first reported by South Africa on 24 November, continues to spread across the continent despite various national containment efforts.

On Wednesday, Kenya and Rwanda became the latest countries to report cases of the strain, joining nearly 80 other countries globally.

South Africa remains to be the hardest-hit country by the pandemic in Africa, having reported 3,204,642 infections with 90,172 fatalities.

The country accounts for 35.63 per cent of Africa’s infections and 39.96 per cent of its deaths.

No other African country has reported more than one million COVID-19 cases, and Tunisia’s 25,443 deaths are the second highest on the continent.

African countries have rolled out mass vaccination drives in efforts to contain further spread of the virus.

The vaccinations have been picking up in recent months, having initially moved very slowly due to a slow arrival of the life-saving doses.

As of 13 December, only 20 African countries had vaccinated at least 10 per cent of their population—the global target set by the World Health Organization for September 2021.

Only six countries have hit the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of their population, while only two countries—Mauritius and Seychelles—have reached the 70 per cent coverage seen as essential for controlling the pandemic.

The WHO estimates that at the current pace, it will take until May of 2022 before Africa reaches 40 per cent coverage and August 2024 before it reaches the 70 per cent mark.