Covid-19: Second wave feared in Kenya, SA

There has been a resurgence in new cases in Egypt, DR Congo, Kenya and South Africa that may be the beginning of a second wave of the pandemic.

08 December 2020 | International

NAMPA / REUTERS







Many African countries have been widely praised for their effective response to curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Countries in the continent had from the onset of the pandemic implemented social distancing measures to control the spread of the virus and had from around August been reporting a decline in daily cases and deaths.

Against expectations, Africa has so far recorded a far lower tally of Covid-19 cases and deaths compared to Europe, Asia, the Americas, or the Middle East. The continent, which accounts for about 18% of the global population, only accounts for about 3.2% of Covid-19 cases and 2.5% of deaths by the disease.

But in recent weeks, there has been a resurgence in new cases and deaths in the continent.

As the US and European countries report a resurgence of cases in what is being referred to as the “second wave”, the resurgence of cases in some African countries is viewed as the potential beginning of a second wave across the continent.

Second wave grips Kenya

There has been a resurgence in Egypt, DR Congo, and South Africa that may be the beginning of a second wave, but in Kenya, the picture looks different.

Kenya appears to be fully experiencing a second wave. Over 1 500 new cases were reported in November, surpassing those recorded (less than 1 000 cases) during the worst time of the pandemic in the country before a decline in August.

Kenya has now topped 85 000 Covid-19 cases and nearly 1 500 deaths, including 31 healthcare workers. It has lost nine doctors, four who died in November.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union threatened a national strike from this weekend if the government did not provide protective equipment and medical insurance for its members, and compensation for healthcare workers who die from Covid-19.

Unclear

Professor Kevin Marsh, a senior adviser and co-lead of the Covid-19 team at the African Academy of Sciences, said calling this resurgence in Kenya and South Africa a second wave depends on how one defines it.

“There is certainly a rise in cases and deaths in both countries following an initial drop. In Kenya, it is not clear if this is a genuine rise in transmission or whether it reflects cases from further afield coming into urban centres following the relaxation of restrictions on movement,” he said.

South Africa, which has reported the highest cases and deaths in Africa due to risk factors such as an older population and a high rate of HIV and tuberculosis infections, had been able to drastically reduce the number of daily cases and death. However, in recent weeks, the number of daily new cases has increased from around 2 000 to over 4 000.

New surge

“It looks like there is a resurgence or an increase in the number of infections as compared to a few weeks ago,” said professor Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council.

“This uptick could be the beginning of a new surge. The next peak will depend on interventions implemented to try and reduce community transmission.”

Gray says there is a discrepancy between the number of deaths that were expected by this time this year in South Africa and what is being observed. That is, there are more deaths in the country due to Covid-19 than expected.

She said this could be due to under-reporting of Covid-19 on death certificates, people dying of Covid-19 without a diagnosis, and collateral deaths from diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis at home.

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