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WHO says 800m Africans may already have COVID, and not know their status

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says more than 800 million people living in Africa may have already contracted the COVID-19 virus without knowing.

In a report on Friday, the global health body said over the past two years, about 97 times more than the number of reported infections have been reported in different parts of the continent.

The report analysed more than 150 studies published between January 2020 and December last year, showing that exposure to the virus jumped from a mere three percent in June 2020, to 65 percent by September of 2021.

“The global average of true infection numbers is believed to be 16 times higher than the number of confirmed reported cases, but could have been 97 times higher in Africa,” the WHO report said.

“Laboratory tests have detected 11.5 million COVID cases and 252,000 fatalities across the African continent. But some 800 million people could have already been infected by last September,” it added.

In the report released by WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti, the body said its study which is still being peer-reviewed, suggests the officially confirmed numbers were “likely only scratching the surface of the real extent of coronavirus infections in Africa.”

“A new meta-analysis of standardised zero-prevalence study revealed that the true number of infections could be as much as 97 times higher than the number of confirmed reported cases,” Moeti said

“This suggests that more than two-thirds of all Africans have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

“With limited access to testing facilities for much of Africa’s population, many infections went undetected, as testing was mainly carried out on symptomatic patients in hospitals and travellers requiring negative PCR results.

“In real terms, this means that in September 2021, rather than the reported 8.2 million cases, there were 800 million,” she added.

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