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Africa Marks Its Worst COVID-19 Week Ever

While COVID-19 cases have risen for seven consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave in early May, the organization notes that during the week ending 4th July, more than 251 000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on the continent, amounting to a 20% increase over the previous week and a 12% jump from the January peak.
Prof. Tulio de Oliveira who heads Research and Innovation Sequencing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa warned that people should be encouraged to embrace vaccination

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Africa marked its worst pandemic week ever, surpassing the second wave peak during the seven days ending on 4 July 2021, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa regional head said at the weekly press conference on Thursday.

While COVID-19 cases have risen for seven consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave in early May, the organization notes that during the week ending 4th July, more than 251 000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on the continent, amounting to a 20% increase over the previous week and a 12% jump from the January peak.

Sixteen African countries are now in resurgence, with Malawi and Senegal added this week. The Delta variant has been detected in 10 of these countries.

“Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever, but the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

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Warning that the hike will continue increasing for the coming weeks, Moeti said cases are doubling now every 18 days compared with every 21 days only a week ago.

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The current upsurge comes while vaccination rates remain low in Africa. The WHO reports that after halts in May and June due to disruptions partly caused by a halt of exports by the Serum Institute of India, vaccine deliveries from the COVAX Facility are gathering momentum.

 In the past two weeks, more than 1.6 million doses were delivered to Africa through COVAX. More than 20 million Janssen vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to arrive imminently from the United States through COVAX, in coordination with the African Union. Forty-nine countries, Uganda included, have been notified of the allocations they will receive. Other significant donations from Norway and Sweden are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

So far, in total,  66 million doses have been delivered to Africa, including 40 million doses secured through bilateral deals, 25 million COVAX-supplied doses and 800 000 doses supplied by the African Union African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. The 50 million doses administered to date account for just 1.6% of doses administered globally. Sixteen million, or less than 2%, of Africans are now fully vaccinated. Nineteen countries have used more than 80% of their COVAX-supplied doses, while 31 countries have used more than 50%.

“With much larger COVID-19 vaccine deliveries expected to arrive in July and August, African countries must use this time to prepare to rapidly expand the roll-out,” said Dr Moeti urging governments to  plan on expanding  vaccination sites, improving cold chain capacities beyond capital cities and sensitizing communities to boost vaccine confidence.

On his part, Prof. Tulio de Oliveira who heads Research and Innovation Sequencing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa warned that people should be encouraged to embrace vaccination as leaving large populations of the world behind will only lead to emergency of more strains that could be tougher than the Delta variant.

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