Africa: Statement On the New Covid Strain, EG.5 SARS-CoV-2 Subvariant

press release

On 9 August 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated EG.5, a descendant lineage of XBB.1.9.2, and its sub-lineages as a variant of interest (VOI), following the recent increase in the number of E.G.5 cases reported.

As of 24 August 2023, over 13000 sequences of E.G.5 have been reported from 59 countries in five regions globally: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania have reported the presence of EG.5 or its sub-lineages. In Africa, four (4) African Union (AU) Member States (MS) have reported the presence of this subvariant or its sub-lineages including, Uganda (2), Egypt (2), Cape Verde (1), and South Africa (1).

In addition to the increase in the number of cases reported, there has also been a reported increase in hospitalizations in Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. EG.5 has also shown increased growth advantage, and immune escape properties. However, there is no evidence yet of an association between EG.5 and severity nor hospitalization of COVID-19 cases. Africa CDC is therefore continuing to monitor this new variant in order to fully understand the pathogenicity and its impact on vaccine efficacy in Africa.

Recommendations to AU Member States and other health authorities

  • COVID-19 vaccines remain a key tool to prevent severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 infection. AU Member States should accelerate the immunization of high-risk populations.
  • Strengthen sentinel surveillance system to monitor trends and key indicators like hospitalization, severity, bed occupancy and test positivity.
  • Reinforce timely genomic surveillance through coordination with national and regional pathogen genomics laboratories. The Africa CDC, through the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (PGI), continues to support this coordination at the continental level.
  • Conduct epidemiological investigations to assess the severity of the EG.5, the impact on healthcare system, and the effectiveness of public health interventions.
  • Urge all AU Member States to continue timely sharing of data on emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants or subvariant with Africa CDC.

As the risk associated with EG.5 remains low, Africa CDC will continue to monitor the situation and provide further guidance to AU Member States and the public, as more information becomes available about the EG.5 and other subvariants.

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