Cape Town - The World Health Organization has confirmed that about 40 million people in Africa have been left in poverty due to the global pandemic which began two years ago.
This week, the WHO said Africa was able to control the pandemic and was seeing a change in the pattern and length of waves.
The first wave had lasted 29 weeks while the fourth wave six weeks.
The heavy blow to the economy saw 40 million people in Africa being flung into poverty.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional Director for Africa, said African nations had become wiser in understanding the surges and how every variant behaved.
“Over the past two years, the African continent has gotten smarter, faster and better at responding to each new surge in cases of Covid-19.
“Against the odds, including huge inequities in access to vaccination, we’ve weathered the Covid-19 storm with resilience and determination, informed by Africa’s long history and experience with controlling outbreaks.
“But Covid-19 has cost us dearly, with more than 242 000 lives lost and tremendous damage to our economies.”
The waves had been driven by new variants, some more fatal than others.
“Over the last two years, the continent has witnessed four waves of Covid-19, each with higher peaks or more total new cases than the previous one.
“The surges have been mostly driven by new variants of the Sars-CoV-2 virus which were highly transmissible though not necessarily more fatal than prior waves.
“Each subsequent wave has triggered a response that has been more effective than the previous, with each surge shorter by 23% on average from the one before. While the first wave lasted about 29 weeks, the fourth wave was over in six weeks, or about a fifth of the time.”
Moeti said he continent had suffered economically and lost billions.
“According to the World Bank, the Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to have pushed up to 40 million people into extreme poverty on the continent, and every month of delay in lifting containment measures is estimated to cost Africa $3.8 billion (about R60bn) in lost gross domestic product.”
He said that much was learnt and that this year we were seeing control being gained.
“Although Covid-19 will be with us for the long term, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This year, we can end the disruption and destruction the virus has left in its path, and gain back control over our lives.
“Controlling this pandemic must be a priority, but we understand no two countries have had the same pandemic experience, and each country must, therefore, chart its own way out of this emergency.
“As we enter this new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, we must use the lessons learnt over the past two years to strengthen our continent’s health systems, so that we are better prepared to handle future waves of the disease.
“Since new variants have fuelled waves, it is critical that countries strengthen their capacity to detect them through improved genome sequencing. This will also ensure we spot other deadly viruses swiftly.”