Africa crosses 5 million Covid-19 cases, pushing continent into third wave

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Jun 18, 2021

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Covid-19 cases on the continent are surging by over 20% week-on-week and countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Uganda have reported their highest number of new weekly cases since the pandemic began.

“New cases recorded weekly in Africa have now exceeded half of the second wave peak of more than 224 000 weekly cases in early January 2021,” read a press release from the WHO in Africa.

In an online press briefing on Thursday, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths is an urgent wake up call for those countries lagging behind to rapidly expand vaccination sites.

“Africa is in the midst of a full blown third wave. The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action. We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly Covid-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems. So public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate and care for patients, and to quickly trace their contacts,” she said.

In 22 African countries cases rose by over 20% last week and deaths rose by nearly 15% in 36 countries.

The Delta variant (dominant in India) has been reported in 14 African countries and the Alpha (dominant in the UK) and Beta (dominant in South Africa) variants have been found in over 25 African countries.

Africa’s vaccine rollout is picking-up speed according to the health organisation, with over 5 million doses administered in the past five days.

Almost 12 million people are now fully vaccinated, however, this is still less than 1% of Africa’s population.

“A number of African countries have shown that they can move vaccines quickly, so while we welcome the recent international vaccine pledges, if we are to curb the third wave, Africa needs doses here and now,” said Moeti.

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