South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Botswana drive new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Africa

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Over 40 million cases of COVID-19 and 1.1 million deaths have been reported globally as of October 18, with over 2.4 million new cases and 36,000 new deaths reported over the past week alone, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) released on Tuesday show.

The European region has continued to report a rapid increase in cases and deaths, with over 927 000 new cases reported this past week – a 25% weekly increase in cases compared to the previous week – contributing 38% of all new cases reported worldwide. Similarly, the number of deaths continues to climb with a 29% increase from last week.

Increases, although more gradual, were also observed in the African, Eastern-Mediterranean and Western Pacific Regions.

Declines continued to be reported in the Region of the Americas and the South-East Asia Region; although the incidence of new infections remains high, and collectively these two regions contribute over half of new cases and deaths observed globally.

The countries reporting the highest number of cases in the past week remain the same as last week: India, the United States of America, France, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in Africa

Continuing trends in the previous week, the African region reported an increase in both cases and deaths in the last 7 days, with an 11% increase in new cases and an 8% increase in new deaths. The pattern of increasing cases continues to be driven by South Africa and Ethiopia, with Kenya, and Botswana also reporting notable increases.

The majority of countries in the region are reporting community transmission of COVID-19 (n=39; 78%), with a further 7 (14%) classifying transmission as clusters of cases (n=7; 14%), 3 (6%) as sporadic cases, and 1 (2%) as reporting no active cases.

An unusually high number of cases was reported from Botswana this week, with over 1800 cases reported in one day. This was largely attributed to a backlog of tests administered from 2–13 October, mostly from in and around the capital city of Gaborone.

South Africa has accounted for approximately 70% of deaths in the Region in the past week. The high number of deaths being reported is partially attributed to a mortality audit, and many of these deaths are retrospectively reported.

Mauritania reported a large increase from last week (12 to 80 cases), all reported from the capital, Nouakchott. Although this is a higher number of cases than Mauritania has reported in recent weeks, it remains lower than the daily numbers reported in July.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in Europe

The European Region has continued to report a rapid increase in cases and deaths, with over 927 000 new cases reported this past week – a 25% weekly increase in cases compared to the previous week – contributing 38% of all new cases reported worldwide (Table 1). Similarly, the number of deaths continues to climb with a 29% increase from last week. Increases, although more gradual, were also observed in the African, Eastern-Mediterranean and Western Pacific Regions. Declines continued to be reported in the Region of the Americas and the South-East Asia Region; although the incidence of new infections remains high, and collectively these two regions contribute over half of new cases and deaths observed globally.

The countries reporting the highest number of cases in the past week remain the same as last week: India, the United States of America, France, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Additional Region-specific information can be found below: African Region, Region of the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean Region, European Region, South-East Asia Region, and Western-Pacific Region.

Region of the Americas

A slight decrease in new cases was reported across the Region over the past week (Figure 4) in comparison to the previous week. The United States of America, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico continue to register the highest number of weekly new cases in the region, while the highest incidence of new cases per million population was reported in Argentina, Bahamas, Costa Rica and Saint Martin, all with more than 1600 cases per million in the past 7 days. A marked decline in the incidence of deaths in the region continued this past week with just over 16 000 new deaths, compared with 20 000 new deaths last week. The Region, accounts for a third (n=798 794, 33%) of new cases and almost half (45%) of new deaths reported globally in the past week. Most countries and territories in the region self characterize their current transmission pattern as community transmission (n=34, 64%), with 8 (15%) classified as clusters of cases, 7 (13%) as sporadic cases, and 5 (9%) as no cases.

Argentina remains the country in the Region with the highest number of new cases and new deaths per million population with over 2000 new cases per million inhabitants in the past week. Even though the weekly incidence of new COVID-19 cases is increasing gradually, a decreasing trend in the number of new deaths has been reported in the past two weeks, dropping from 6000 deaths per week at the end of September to less than 2500 deaths in the past week.

Guatemala continues to register a gradual decline in the incidence of new cases, however, an 88% increase in new deaths (from 80 to 150 deaths) was reported the past 7 days. COVID-19 test positivity rates have also remained relatively high for the last 12 weeks with over 10% of samples testing positive. The highest incidence of cases and deaths was reported in the capital, Guatemala City, and has reached over 530 deaths per million population.

Peru has the second-highest rate of deaths per 1 million population in the Region with 1021 deaths per million inhabitants. However, in the last week, modest decreases in case and death rates continued. Some regions have reported declines of 50% and the regions of Puno, Madre de Dios, Amazonas and Moquegua registered declines of 70% in the weekly incidence of COVID-19.

Eastern Mediterranean Region

A gradual increase of new cases and deaths was reported by the Eastern Mediterranean Region over the past week (Figure 5), reaching the highest weekly incidence reported since the beginning of the pandemic, with almost 150 000 new confirmed cases from 22 countries. In the past week, The Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and Morocco are reported the highest number of new cases while Bahrain, Lebanon and Jordan report the highest incidence, with over 1500 new cases per million population.

A majority of the countries in the region continue to self-characterise their current transmission pattern as community transmission (n=14, 64%), with 5 countries reporting clusters of cases and sporadic cases being reported in Somalia, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. During the past week, Tunisia updated their classification from clusters of cases to community transmission.

The Islamic Republic of Iran remains the most affected country in the region with Tehran, the capital city, being the most affected area. In this reporting period, Iran has recorded new weekly records, with over 30 000 new cases (360 cases per million population) and over 1,800 deaths (22 new deaths per million population) reported, bringing cumulative counts in the country to over 534 000 cases and 30 000 deaths.

Libya has shown a surge in cases, recording over 6,000 new cases (900 cases per million population). Test positivity rates also continue to gradually increase, with approximately 1 in 4 samples tested returning a positive result.

European Region

This week, the European Region again reports the highest increase in cases and deaths thus far – 25% and 29%, respectively compared to the previous week. In addition, the Region reported the greatest proportion of new cases globally (38%, n=927 433). A media briefing by WHO Regional Director for Europe highlighted that the region is currently reporting over three times more cases per day compared to the April peak, with hospital admissions rising, although the number of daily deaths remains five times lower than they were in April.

France, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, Czechia and Italy continue to report a high incidence of new cases. Collectively, these five countries contribute to over half of all reported cases this week in the Region.

A majority of the countries in the region self-characterise their current transmission pattern as community transmission (n=34, 55%), with a further 20 (33%) countries reporting clusters of cases, 4 (6%) clusters of cases, 3 (<1%) no cases, and one pending classification. During the past week North Macedonia updated their classification from clusters of cases to community transmission.

Slovenia reported a 150% increase in cases this week (n=4890) – the highest one-week increase the country has experienced so far. In addition, Slovenia reported 1924 deaths, compared to only one death last week. In response to this recent increase in cases and deaths, as of 19 October, the Slovenian government has declared a 30-day state of emergency with a daily curfew.

South-East Asia Region

Overall, the region continues to show a decline in cases and deaths (Figure 7), with Nepal being the only country which reported an increase in both new weekly cases (12%) and new deaths (31%) in comparison to the previous week. Nepal reported 810 new cases per one million population, the highest in the region, followed by the Maldives (590) and India (319). Most countries in the region self-characterise their current transmission pattern as cluster of cases (n=6, 55%), with two countries reporting community transmission and a further two reporting sporadic cases.

Bangladesh reported an 8% increase in new weekly cases. Among the 386 086 cases reported as of 16 October, the majority (81%) were adults aged 21–60 years, and almost three-quarters (72%) were male. During the same timeframe, the country has conducted 2.13 million diagnostic tests, or 12 900 tests per million population.

Myanmar reported a 6% increase in new weekly deaths compared to last week. The majority of the cases and deaths continue to be reported from Yangon Region. Here, the Government has further extended stay at home orders for 44 townships from 8–21 October. On 3 October, Myanmar published standard operating procedures for testing of COVID-19 with antigen-based rapid diagnostic kits, and began using these in Yangon Region on 29 September, followed by other regions and states.

Thailand continues to report relatively low numbers of cases. The country has become one of the first countries in the world tocomplete an assessment of how its healthsystem has so far responded to COVID-19. The review highlights success factors and provides recommendations across nine areas, or “pillars” of the national response.

Western Pacific Region

Overall, one percent of all new weekly cases and deaths were reported from the Western-Pacific Region. The region reported an 8% increase in new weekly cases and 27% decrease in new weekly deaths as compared to the previous week. The majority of new cases continue to be reported from the Philippines, Malaysia and Japan. Whereas French Polynesia and Guam reported the highest incidence of new cases – 3713 and 3258 new cases per one million inhabitants, respectively. Papua New Guinea reported an increase of over 200% in weekly cases as compared to the previous week, with 31 new cases and 581 total confirmed cases.

Only two out of countries and territories in the region self-characterize their current transmission pattern as community transmission, with a further 9 (24%) countries reporting clusters of cases, and 7 (18%) countries reporting sporadic cases. The majority (n=19, 50%) of countries and territories report no active cases, and one territory is pending classification.

Malaysia reported a 51% increase in cases and deaths as compared to last week, with the majority of cases reported from Sabah State. The Ministry of Health have taken several measures reduce transmission and increasing test capacity in the state – daily RT-PCR tests increased from 1350 in July to 2600 as of 17 October.

Wallis and Futuna, reported its first positive case of COVID-19 to WHO on 19 October. As this falls outside of the reporting period of this update, the island territory will be reflected in next week’s update.

Key weekly updates

  • Therapeutics: The Solidarity Therapeutics Trial have produced conclusive evidence on whether selected repurposed drugs are effective for COVID-19. Interim results from the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial, coordinated by WHO, indicate that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appear to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalised patients.
  • A call of Solidarity: Kim Sledge and the World We Want have partnered with WHO Foundation to re-record the unity anthem, “We Are Family”, in response to COVID-19 and to bring focus on global public health needs. A special edition cover of Sister Sledge’s hit “We Are Family” will be released in a new and inspiring call for global solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to generate proceeds to address the most pressing global health challenges of our time. In support of the song’s release, people worldwide are invited to submit videos of themselves singing We Are Family for inclusion in a compilation video for release on 7 December 2020.
  • Briefings: WHO Director-General Dr Tedros, in his regular media briefing on 12 October, expressed concern around the concept of reaching so-called “herd immunity” by the letting the virus spread – “never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic”. Further more, in a media briefing on 16 October, Dr Tedros highlighted the rising number of cases of COVID-19 globally, especially in Europe where, although the number of deaths reported is much lower than in March, hospitalisations are increasing.
  • Health System Strengthening: WHO published a Handbook for public health capacity-building at ground crossings and cross-border collaboration. The objectives of the handbook are to introduce principles of strategic risk assessment for prioritizing preparedness and response capacity building; highlight issues to consider when selecting ground crossings for designation under the International Health Regulations (2005, IHR); and, support the establishment and maintenance of cross-border collaboration to improve coordination and communication.
  • Food security, public health and livelihoods: On 13 October, WHO with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) released a joint statement on the Impact of COVID-19 on people’s livelihoods, their health and our food systems. The pandemic has been affecting the entire food system and has laid bare its fragility. Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing markets, including for buying inputs and selling their produce, and agricultural workers from harvesting crops, thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets. According to the policy brief published by the United Nations, in the long run, we face possible disruptions to the functioning of food systems, with severe consequences for health and nutrition.
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1 COMMENT

  1. Here in Ethiopia, the main cases of Covid 19 are coming from prisons and from over crowded gatherings for protests. The Ethiopian regime which is leaded by the expired and illegal Abiy Ahmed, is using Covid 19 as a weapon to not to held an election. Also as there’s no any protection ways for the people in the jails, lots of new cases are from the prisons specially in Finfine, (the capital) and in the Oromia region. These are where most of new cases for the virus are confirmed. Because these are where the tens of thousands are being crowdedly held in jails. The PM is using the pandemic to let the his opponents being caught by the virus and make his journey of cleansing his all opponents simple. Specifically lots of youthes whom were being jailed while peacefully protesting are testing positive for the virus. Remember those all things are happening not by mistake but because it’s the PM’s wish and the policemen are doing what he orders them to do. We Oromos beg the world and the WHO to hear our cries and to let the PM stop using the pandemic to his political gain!

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