Africa's second waves sees rising death rate

At least 40 countries have now seen a second wave of the pandemic.

Africa's second waves sees rising death rate
Africa's second wave sees rising death rate

There is evidence that the death rate for those infected with Covid-19 in Africa is on the increase.

And although the overall number of new cases has fallen in some countries, it remains persistently high in others, with many of these cases possibly linked to new variants of the virus.

What's happening to case numbers?

At least 40 countries have now seen a second wave of the pandemic, including all countries in the southern Africa region, says the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC).

"This new wave of infections is thought to be associated with the emergence of variants that are more transmissible."

A new variant of the virus - known as 501.V2 - emerged in South Africa last year, and has contributed to record case numbers in the southern African region, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Initial analysis indicates that the variant... may spread more readily between people," according to the WHO.

However, it doesn't appear to cause more serious illness.

In South Africa itself, daily new case numbers have started to fall significantly after a second peak.

And because there are many more cases in South Africa than anywhere else on the continent, this has resulted in an overall fall of 17% in cases across the continent, according to the CDC.

In Nigeria, scientists have also identified a new variant of the virus, although they say there is currently no evidence to indicate it is contributing to increased transmission.

However, cases in Nigeria have been on the rise since early December, and are only just starting to trend downwards.

However, the numbers have started to level off (the WHO data excludes Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia).

During the first stage of the pandemic, Africa's overall fatality rates -the proportion of those with Covid who then die - were lower than those elsewhere in the world.

There were a number of theories put forward as to why that might be the case, such as the relatively younger population, and possible cross-immunity from other coronaviruses.

But the Africa CDC has now warned about rising fatality rates in the continent, saying that of the 55 countries they monitor, 21 are now reporting fatality rates above the current global average of 2.2%.

The fatality rate for Africa has crept up since July last year when it was 2.1% - to 2.5% currently.

It's worth pointing out that the global fatality rate has also come down since the start of the pandemic, which in itself would put more African countries above the global average.

And fatality rates are affected by how much testing is done - a country with low levels of testing will show a higher death rate because many non-fatal Covid cases are going undetected.