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.
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
“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.