Africa records 32,000 COVID-19 cases and 800 deaths in one week with South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia reporting highest numbers

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Africa has recorded 32,000 new cases of COVId-19 and 800 new deaths over the past one week, according to new data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday.

South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia continued to report the highest numbers of new cases over the past one week.

The Region now accounts for around 1% of new global cases and 2% of new global deaths.

“The Region shows a mixed pattern with countries at different epidemic stages and experiencing different outcomes. Despite this, COVID-19 continues to contribute an added burden to public health, strained already stretched health systems and caused socio-economic pressures,” WHO said.

Cases in Ethiopia have declined from peaks in August when there were over 10 000 cases a week, to just over 4 400 new cases reported in the past week (38 new cases per 1 million population), a 12% decrease compared to the previous 7 days.

The number of new cases in Ethiopia are the third highest in the WHO African region. Deaths in the country have increased slightly (6%) in the past week although overall numbers remain low (n=73) and the rate of new deaths is less than one (0.6) per 1 million population. Ethiopia, as well as other countries in the Horn of Africa, are facing a triple threat of floods from unusually heavy rains, desert locust crop destruction and the impacts of COVID-19-all threatening food security.

With 4 594 new cases over the past week (85 new cases per 1 million population), a 51% increase from last week, Kenya is now reporting the second highest numbers of new cases in the Region and has witnessed a dramatic rise since the week of September 28 when there were only 1 000 new cases reported. It is just shy of its previous peak at the end of July, when there were 4 700 new cases Although deaths have increased at a much lower rate (9%) and new deaths are just over one per 1 million population (1.3).

Oxygen is one of the most essential medicines for saving patients with COVID-19, as well as many other conditions. One of the main barriers to medical oxygen is the high transport costs of the cylinders to the health facilities. In Kenya, a private sector company has positioned oxygen plants near clusters of health facilities and uses a milk delivery system to deliver oxygen to more than 140 clinics.

WHO says it is committed to working in solidarity with all governments, partners and the private sector to scale up sustainable oxygen supply.

Globally, in the past week the highest number of new COVID-19 cases have been reported, amounting to over 2 million new cases in the past 7 days, the shortest intervals for this exponential increase since the start of the pandemic, while the number of new deaths is comparable to previous weeks.

As of October 25, over 42 million cases and 1.1 million deaths have been reported globally, with over 2.8 million new cases and nearly 40 000 new deaths reported over the past week.

For the second consecutive week the European Region accounted for the greatest proportion of reported new cases, with over 1.3 million new cases reported this past week – a 33% increase in cases compared to the previous week – contributing nearly half of all new cases reported worldwide this week (46%) (Table 1).

Similarly, the number of deaths continues to increase in the region with a 35% increase from last week and accounting for nearly one third of all new deaths globally.

Although not as substantial, increases in reported new cases were also observed in the Region of the Americas, Eastern-Mediterranean and African regions.

Declines in cases and deaths continued to be reported in the South-East Asia region while the Western Pacific region has shown a slight decline in new cases and deaths in the past 7 days.

Despite regional variations the countries reporting the highest number of cases in the past week remain the same as the previous 3 weeks: India, the United States of America, France, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Additional Region-specific information can be found below as updated by the WHO.

Region of the Americas

The Region of the Americas reported 880 000 new cases (31% of the global total) and 17 000 new deaths (43% of the global total) over the past week. The United States, Brazil, and Argentina continue to report the highest number of new cases (78% of regional new cases) and new deaths (67% of regional new deaths) in the Region.

The number of new weekly cases in the United States has risen since the week beginning 7 September, when there were 240 000 confirmed cases, to over 400 000 confirmed cases over the past week. Cases are now approaching the previous epidemic peak in July. At 1 318 new cases per million population, the incidence is lower in comparison to several European countries, such as the United Kingdom (2 200 cases per million) and France (3 300 cases per million). According to a US CDC report, the number of deaths from COVID-19 might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality, with an estimated 300 000 excess deaths occurring from late January through 3 October 2020, of which 200 000 excess deaths can be attributed to COVID-19.

Colombia has reported just over 1 million cumulative cases since the start of the pandemic, with the number of weekly new cases remaining stable with approximately 53 000 new cases (1 053 new cases per 1 million population) and 1 100 new deaths (23 new deaths per 1 million population) reported this week. Cases in Colombia peaked in the week of 10 August at 77 915 cases, dropping to 43 000 cases in the week of 28 September, but have risen in October.

In the week beginning 28 September, Canada exceeded its previous peak of roughly 12 000 new cases per week observed in late April. In October the number of cases has continued to rise, with over 17 000 new cases in the last week (467 new cases per 1 million population). The number of new deaths per week has also risen in October, with 166 deaths reported for the past week, although these numbers are far lower than they were in April and May when over 1 000 weekly new deaths were reported. Quebec and Ontario, which account for approximately 60% of the population of Canada, account for nearly 80% of cases. There have been reports suggesting that this rise may be partly attributable to social gatherings during Thanksgiving, which was celebrated in Canada on 12 October.

Eastern Mediterranean Region

In the past 7 days there have been 159 000 new cases and 4 000 deaths reported in the Eastern Mediterranean region. This represents a 6% increase in cases from last week and there has been a steady increasing trend seen in the region over the past two months. While Iran continues to report the highest number of new cases in the region, the highest number of new cases per 1 million population is seen in Jordan, while the highest new deaths and new deaths per 1 million population remain highest in Iran.

Jordan has reported an acceleration of new cases this past week and reached a peak of reported daily new cases in the past seven days. Bahrain reports the second highest new cases per 1 million population (1 413) and the highest cumulative cases of 47 001 per 1 million population. Increased public health and safety measures are seen throughout the country and the Ministry of Health for the Kingdom of Bahrain have recently published two new guidance documents, the first addressing health requirements to be applied in establishments serving shisha to contain and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the other aims to establish health measures to be observed by restaurants and coffee shops to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

While the number of new cases in Djibouti remains low, there has been an increasing trend in new cases for the past three weeks. New cases reported in the country last week showed a 480% increase (from 5 to 29) compared to three weeks ago, week beginning 28 September. This week Djibouti reported 78 new cases, a 169% increase from the previous week. These steady increases in new cases are not at previous peaks seen in June, when there were 975 casesinthefirstweekofJune,butarestillofconcern.AsaresulttheMinistryofHealth announcedtheywillbeclosing land borders from 20 October for 15 days.

European Region

The number of new cases and deaths reported in the European region are increasing exponentially, with 36% and 37% increase in cases and deaths respectively compared to the previous week, the highest percentage increase reported in a single week in the region. Although the number of deaths is gradually increasing, the proportion of deaths to cases remains relatively low, compared to the early phase of the pandemic in the spring.

Approximately 1.3 million cases and 11 700 deaths were reported in the last 7 days, accounting for 46% and 30% respectively of the total number of cases and deaths reported globally. France accounted for the greatest number of new cases, over 200 000 cases, reported in the past 7 days. In the last week, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and ICU occupancy increased in 21 countries across the region, compared to the previous week, however, current figures represent about 25% of the numbers reported during the peak level early in the pandemic. Based on surveillance data reported, an estimated 18% of reported COVID- 19 cases have been hospitalized, with 7% of hospitalized patients requiring ICU and/or respiratory support.

In the United Kingdom, new cases have increased by 30% in the past week. The number of hospitalizations in Wales has sharply increased in the last week, increasing the pressure on frontline staff. There was also a steep increase in the number of ICU admissions among COVID-19 cases aged over 65 years old in England. Other countries reporting high hospitalization rates include Czechia, where new deaths per 1 million population are currently the highest (67)since the start of the pandemic and hospitals are expected to be at maximum capacity by mid-November and Italy where hospitals in Milan are stretched to capacity and temporary clinics have been reopened to manage the burden on the health system.

In the last week, Slovenia reported their highest daily increase in the number of new cases, 1 964, the rapid rise in cases has resulted in the health care system being stretched to capacity. To reduce transmission, the country was split into “red” and “orange” zones based on reported case numbers and Public Health and Social Measures were implemented accordingly..

South-East Asia Region

A continued declining trend in new cases and deaths was observed in the South-East Asia this week, this decline in new cases and deaths has been a weekly trend for the past five weeks with the largest decrease in new cases (decrease of 13%) and deaths (decrease of 16%) seen in the past 7 days. Steady decreases in cases have been seen in the past month in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Maldives and Bhutan with other countries in the region continuing to fluctuate.

The only country in the region this week to report a substantial increase in new cases has been Sri Lanka reporting 2 046 new cases (96 new cases per 1 million population) compared to 847 new cases (40 new cases per 1 million population) last week. In an effort to decrease the burden at one of its largest hospitals, government authorities have decided to restrict the number of all outpatients patients visiting the Colombo National Hospital. As an alternative a landline and mobile service to obtain medicines at the clinics of the Colombo National Hospital.

While India is still reporting the highest number of new cases and deaths in the region, trends in these numbers for the country continue to decrease. India have reported 370 260 new cases (268 new cases per 1 million population) a decrease of 16% in the past week. 4 503 new deaths (3.3 new deaths per 1 million population) were reported this week amounting to a 21% decrease in new deaths compared to the previous 7 days. With upcoming cultural events such as Diwali, the Ministry of Culture issued a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) for cultural functions to facilitate organization of cultural events during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sustained declining trends have also been observed in the Maldives, with new cases down 24% from last week and continuing to be seen mostly from Greater Malé region. Additionally nearly all cases belong to known and existing clusters

Western Pacific Region

Following a three-week increase in the number of cases reported in the Western Pacific region, the number of weekly new cases decreased by 4% in the last 7 days. The decrease in the number of cases observed was predominantly driven by the decrease reported in Papua New Guinea (94% decrease) and the Philippines (23% decrease). Similarly, the number of deaths reported in the last 7 days decreased by 6%. Approximately 27 000 cases and 430 deaths were reported in the region, accounting for just 1% of the total number of cases and deaths reported globally.

The number of cases and deaths in Malaysia has consistently increased in recent weeks, and in the last 7 days, an average of 873 cases and 6 deaths were reported daily, amounting to 189 new cases and 1.3 new deaths per 1 million population. This resulted in an increase of 35% and 64% of cases and deaths respectively compared with the previous week. The rapid increase in cases and deaths is putting the public health system under immense pressure.

Despite the decrease in cases reported in the Philippines, the country accounted for about 50% of the total number of cases and 75% of the total number of deaths reported in the region in the last 7 days. Relative to the country’s population, new cases (123) and new deaths (3) per 1 million population remain low compared to other countries in the region. Heavy flooding, affecting over 35 000 households have been reported in the island of Mindanao, resulting in the evacuation of more than 12 000 people. This could affect COVID-19 response measures in the region as many displaced families are staying in makeshift tents. Mindanao also continues to report new health worker infections and an overall increasing trend in COVID-19 cases.

Key weekly updates

  • “We are at a critical juncture in this pandemic…We urge leaders to take immediate action, to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again.” stressed the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros as part of the regular press briefing on COVID-19 on 23 October. Dr Tedros expanded that as the northern hemisphere enters winter, cases are accelerating, particularly in Europe and North America. The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track. WHO is calling on governments to carry out five key actions:
    1. Assess the current outbreak situation in your country based on the latest data
    2. For those countries where cases, hospitalizations and ICU rates are rising, make the necessary adjustments and course correct as quickly as possible.
    3. Be clear and honest with the public about the status of the pandemic in your country and what is needed from every citizen to get through this pandemic together.
    4. Put systems in place to make it easier for citizens to comply with the measures that are advised.
    5. Improve contact tracing systems and focus on isolating all cases and quarantining contacts, to avoid mandatory stay at home orders for everyone.
  • WHO has updated its draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines, which lists 44 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation. At a press briefing last week, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, said “We’re looking at the beginning of next year really to start seeing data for many of the trials though we may see one or two before the end of the year but the majority will start reporting in early 2021.Manycompanies are already manufacturing several million doses so as soon as the results are out, if it’s promising, companies will be able to start providing those doses to the COVAX facility which will then distribute based on the fair allocation framework that we have developed…”
  • WHO has published an assessment tool for laboratories implementing SARS-CoV-2 testing to assess the capacity of laboratories that have implemented or intend to implement testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • The 10th annual global celebration of Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Week will take place from 24 to 31 October 2020, under the theme “Resisting Disinfodemic: Media and Information Literacy for everyone and, by everyone”. Through Global MIL Week, UNESCO and WHO are joining forces to tackle disinformation and misinformation. WHO and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that administers Wikipedia, also announced a collaboration to expand the public’s access to the latest and most reliable information about COVID-19.
  • The World Health Summit, a leading global health conference and network of civil society, academia, politics and the private sector, will take place this week as a fully digital, interactive conference with a free-to-
    view programme. As part of this, a new book, Health: A Political Choice – Act Now, Together, has been launched that calls on world leaders and politicians to unite in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other threats to health and the global economy.
  • As many countries prepare to celebrate the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day on 2 November, WHO reminds people of the importance of physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, coughing safely into your arm, avoiding crowds and meeting people outside where possible and when you have to be inside with others open windows and ensure good ventilation with non-recirculating air.
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, Simon leads a brilliant team of reporters, freelance journalists, analysts, researchers and contributors from around the world to run TODAY NEWS AFRICA as editor-in-chief. Simon Ateba's journalistic experience spans over 10 years and covers many beats, including business and investment, information technology, politics, diplomacy, human rights, science reporting and much more. Write him: simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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