BRAZZAVILLE, June 2 (Xinhua) — COVID-19 deaths in the African region are expected to decline by almost 94 percent in 2022 compared with 2021 which was the pandemic’s most lethal year, said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday, citing a new WHO analysis.

The analysis, which was published this week in the scientific journal, the Lancet Global Health, suggests that around 23,000 deaths are expected by the end of 2022 if current variants and transmission dynamics remain constant, as cases are estimated to drop by a little over a quarter this year, read a statement by the WHO regional office for Africa. According to the analysis, the African region reported 113,102 deaths in 2021 through official channels, however, about one in three deaths were missed and the true number of deaths was around 350,000. “Our latest analysis suggests that estimated deaths in the African region will shrink to around 60 a day in 2022,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, adding that the lower number of deaths expected this year is a testament to the efforts of countries and partners. “However, 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,” noted Moeti.

In 2021, the African region experienced a particularly deadly pandemic, with the analysis estimating that COVID-19 was the seventh major cause of death, just below malaria, while in 2020, the virus was the 22nd major cause of death in the region. The significant increase in deaths in 2021 was due to the delta variant which was more infectious and caused more severe disease, said the WHO. “We have learned many lessons on how to stay a step ahead of the virus,” said Moeti. “Now is the time to refine our response and identify populations most at-risk of COVID-19. Countries must intensify efforts to conduct a targeted response that provides the most vulnerable people with the health services they need, including COVID-19 vaccines and effective treatment.”

According to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 11,648,334 as of Wednesday evening since the outbreak.