WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti told a virtual news conference on Thursday the number of COVID-caused death in Africa during 2022 is expected to drop by that spectacular percentage this year from 2021's toll, the pandemic's most deadly year on the continent, with COVID-19 the seventh major cause of death, just below malaria.
"Our latest analysis suggests that estimated deaths in the African region will shrink to around 60 a day in 2022. ... Last year, we lost an average of 970 people every day," Moeti told a virtual news conference.
Around 23,000 deaths are expected by the end of the year, provided current variants and transmission patterns remain the same, according to the analysis.
The plunge in fatalities is attributed to increased vaccination, improved pandemic response and natural immunity from prior infections, the WHO said.
As of the end of May, Africa had reported over 11.8 million confirmed COVID cases and more than 250,000 deaths.
The findings infer that only one in 71 COVID-19 cases are recorded in Africa and that about one in three deaths have been missed.
COVID deaths in Africa have been uneven. Richer countries and southern African nations have had around double the mortality rates of poorer ones in other parts of Africa, partly due to co-morbidities that increase the risk of death, the WHO analysis found.
But the WHO says there is still a struggle to reach everyone in Africa.
Although African countries struggled early in the pandemic to secure COVID vaccines as rich countries hoarded available doses, many are now well-supplied with shots but are having trouble getting them into arms. The reasons include hesitancy and logistics.
"The job is not yet done. 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," Moeti said.