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WHO: 2021 Covid-19’s deadliest year, but 2022 will see 94% drop in deaths

A 6-inch long swab used to be inserted into the nose cavity to test for Covid-19. Picture: IAN LANDSBERG African News Agency (ANA)

A 6-inch long swab used to be inserted into the nose cavity to test for Covid-19. Picture: IAN LANDSBERG African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 4, 2022


Cape Town - The World Health Organization has revealed that Covid-19 deaths are expected to decrease by almost 94% this year compared to 2021 when the pandemic was at its most lethal.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, explained that close to 1 000 people died daily last year and that this had reduced dramatically this year.

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“Last year, we lost an average of 970 people every day,” said Moeti.

“Our latest analysis suggests that estimated deaths in the African region will shrink to around 60 a day in 2022.”

He added, however, that relaxing safety measures posed a possible danger in that a new variant could arise.

“Every time we sit back and relax, Covid-19 flares up again. The threat of new variants remains real, and we need to be ready to cope with this ever-present danger.”

The WHO added that many cases went unreported.

“The study’s findings infer that only one in 71 Covid-19 cases in the region are recorded and 166.2 million infections are anticipated in 2022 compared with the estimated 227.5 million which occurred in 2021.

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“The gap in number of cases and deaths in 2022 is due to increasing vaccination, improved pandemic response and natural immunity from previous infections which, while not preventing reinfections, stops severe forms of the disease and deaths.

“In 2021, the African region experienced a particularly deadly pandemic, with the analysis estimating that Covid-19 was the seventh major cause of death, just below malaria, while in 2020, the virus was the 22nd major cause of deaths in the region.”

The WHO added the death toll on the African continent had left its mark, including in South Africa.

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“The burden of Covid-19 deaths has been uneven across the African region. High-income or upper-middle-income countries and those in the South African Development Community have around double the mortality rates in lower-income and lower-middle-income countries in other economic regions of Africa,” they said.

They added the number of deaths was driven by biological and physical factors, primarily comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV and obesity which increase the severity of the illness and the risk of mortality.

Meanwhile, Premier Alan Winde has since written to President Cyril Ramaphosa calling for an urgent meeting with the President’s Co-ordinating Council (PCC), for the removal of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

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Winde added that the province had seen a decline in infections and low usage of oxygen as a motivating factor.

“The Western Cape’s data shows clearly that there has been a continued decoupling between Covid-19 infections on the one hand, and Covid-19 related hospitalisations and deaths on the other,” Winde said. “A robust measure for Covid-19 pressure on the health platform is oxygen usage, and that has remained low.

“Indeed, while there was an increase in Covid-19 infections, the Western Cape remained solidly in the first tier of our trigger system, with hospitalisations, deaths and oxygen usage all remaining low.

“At the same time, we continue to see record-high unemployment in South Africa, negatively impacted by continued load shedding and the rising cost of living. The major fuel price increases this week are a serious warning to us all.

“It is for this reason, based on clear data in support of this call, that I call for the lifting of all remaining Covid-19 restrictions, and for this to be done as soon as possible. It is time to completely pass the baton to the citizens of our country who should be entrusted with the responsibility to stay safe if they are at risk.”

He added that mask wearing indoors should be reviewed: “This in particular means removing the requirement for mask wearing, and any limitation on gatherings, indoors or outdoors. The economy must be allowed to operate unfettered.”

The province saw 804 cases a day with a low number of deaths.

MEC of Health and Wellness, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, added: “While we did enter a resurgence, cases are showing a decline which points to us having instead mitigated a severe fifth wave. This is encouraging because it shows that existing immunity and vaccinations are helping to decouple infections, hospitalisations and deaths – showing us that we can safely begin to reopen the economy and move forward. I encourage those of you who have not yet done so to get vaccinated and/or get boosted!”

MEC of Finance and Economic Opportunities Mireille Wenger also called for the removal of restrictions.

"It’s time that we fully open up our economy which means allowing events to go back to business-as-usual, and focusing on the responsibility of the individual.”

“While the recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey paints a slightly more positive picture for our provincial economy, with 35 000 jobs created quarter-on-quarter, we cannot support restrictions which serve only to undermine the economy. We need to claw back the jobs loss.”

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