WHO warns of Covid-19 cases surge in Africa
Africa is facing a fast-surging third wave of Covid-19 pandemic, with cases projected to overtake the peak of the second wave the continent witnessed earlier this year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Covid-19 cases have risen for five consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave in May.
"The latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet," Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Regional Director for Africa, said. "Africa can still blunt the impact of these fast-rising infections, but the window of opportunity is closing. Everyone everywhere can do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission."
The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. With rapidly rising case numbers & increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be #Africa’s worst yet. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/dXm8OsY8Zo— Dr Matshidiso Moeti (@MoetiTshidi) June 25, 2021
As of 20 June, the continent had recorded around 474,000 new cases, a 21% increase compared with the onset of the second wave.
Twelve African countries are witnessing the highest uptick due to weak observance of public health measures and increased social interaction, as well as the spread of new variants, according to the WHO.
Across Africa, the variant first identified in India, known as Delta, has been reported in 14 countries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda are among the worst hit by the Delta variant, which has been detected in most samples sequenced in the past month.
Uganda announced new restrictions on 18 July 2021, including no movement by public transport or private vehicles for 42 days and an extended curfew.
The latest upsurge comes amid an ongoing struggle to equip African countries with enough doses of the vaccine through the COVAX program, a UN-sponsored effort aimed ensuring that developing countries are not left behind.
Despite the efforts, just over 1% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Eighteen African countries have used over 80 per cent of their vaccine supplies, while eight have exhausted their stocks.
WHO said it is increasing the number of experts deployed to some of the worst-affected countries, including Uganda and Zambia. The UN organisation is also supporting South Africa-based regional laboratories to monitor variants of concern and equipping laboratories in the region to monitor the evolution of the virus.
The spread of the Delta variant has raised concerns over the effectiveness of vaccines on this new strand of the virus. Israel, which was among the first countries to initiate a national campaign to vaccinate its population, told citizens on Friday they must again wear masks indoors, 10 days after it had shelved the regulation.
Israel is among the countries experiencing a sustained surge in coronavirus infections attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant.