Discussion: Sub-Saharan Africa’s deepening coronavirus crisis

Four people are shown looking through a white-framed windows and wearing green medical scrubs.

South Africa’s government has relaxed some pandemic restrictions, reporting that a recent spike in coronavirus cases has passed its peak, according to the president.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation Sunday that the average daily number of new confirmed cases over the last week was around 12,000, which was a 20% drop from the previous week.

While new confirmed cases are declining in South Africa — the country accounts for about a third of reported cases across Africa — WHO’s regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, suggested last week that cases are still rising steeply.

“Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa’s third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before,” she said.

With the Delta variant fueling numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa, global health experts are increasingly concerned about the impacts of the pandemic on the continent. Despite early efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, containing the third wave is complicated by limited vaccination accessibility and resources.

A series of studies by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues from the Africa Research, Implementation Science and Education Network suggests that countering the pandemic has led to disruptions in health and socioeconomic status, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, that “may have serious consequences for nutrition and health and exacerbate existing inequities.”

As part of The World’s regular series of conversations on the pandemic with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public health, Africa correspondent Halima Gikandi moderated a discussion with the study’s senior author and principal investigator Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, and professor of nutrition, epidemiology and global health at Harvard.

The conversation covered a number of key findings from the papers, including impacts on food systems, schooling and health care.

Find more on the studies here:

This conversation is presented jointly with The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The AP contributed to this post.

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