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Omicron now dominant variant in Nigeria, Cabo Verde – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Omicron is currently the dominant variant in both Cabo Verde and Nigeria as COVID-19 cases are on increase in West Africa.

Matshidiso Moeti
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa

The UN health agency on Thursday, January 13, 2022 said 30 African countries – and at least 142 worldwide – had detected the Omicron variant while the Delta variant had been reported in 42 African nations.

“In West Africa, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, the number of Omicron sequences undertaken by countries including Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, is growing.

“And Omicron is currently the dominant variant in both Cabo Verde and Nigeria.”

After a six-week surge, Africa’s fourth pandemic wave, which has been mainly driven by the Omicron variant, is flattening, according to WHO.

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WHO said that this marked the shortest surge since the pandemic began on the continent, where total cases had exceeded 10.2 million.

Recorded cases of infection showed  that the weekly number plateaued in the seven days leading up to Jan. 9, from the previous week.

“Early indications suggested that Africa’s fourth wave had been steep and brief but no less destabilising,” WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said.

In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant had become the dominant type.

While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries, according to WHO.

Southern Africa saw a huge increase in infections during the pandemic wave but recorded a 14 per cent decline in confirmed cases over the past week.

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And South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, saw a nine per cent fall in weekly infections.

While East and Central Africa regions also experienced falling numbers of cases, North and West Africa are seeing a rise in infections, with North Africa reporting a 121 per cent increase over the past week, compared with the previous seven days.

“The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccinations,” the senior WHO official said.

“The next wave may not be so forgiving.”

Through training in bioinformatics, specimen handling and other key areas, WHO is supporting countries across the continent in bolstering genomic sequencing to identify new mutations.

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The organisation is also helping to procure and deliver critical laboratory equipment and supplies.

While the continent appeared to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, only around 10 per cent of the population had  been fully vaccinated.

However, vaccine supplies to Africa had  improved recently, and WHO is stepping up its support to countries to deliver doses to the wider population

“This year should mark a turning point in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive,” Moeti said.

“With vast swaths of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of deadly variants are frighteningly slim,” she said.

By Cecilia Ologunagba

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