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COVID cases, deaths in Africa reach lowest level since start of pandemic

The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Africa have fallen to their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, the World Health Organization announced Thursday, per The Associated Press.

The WHO said Omicron variant-driven COVID-19 infections had "tanked" from "a peak of more than 308,000 weekly cases to fewer than 20,000 last week," AP writes.

"This low level of infection has not been seen since April 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic in Africa," the WHO wrote, adding there is no country in the region currently seeing a surge in cases. 

There is a catch, however; the health agency warned of the risk of another wave of infections as winter envelops the Southern Hemisphere and large gatherings move indoors. Pandemic controls must therefore remain in effect so as to curb another surge, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Africa director.

In related news, scientists in Botswana and South Africa this weekend detected new Omicron subvariants they're calling BA.4 and BA.5, AP reports. They're still determining whether the new forms are more transmissible or dangerous. 

Africa, for whatever reason, has remained the continent least affected by COVID-19, despite initial fears of the opposite happening, AP notes. Scientists say its resilience could have something to do with the young population, the lower incidence of certain chronic diseases, and the warmer weather.