The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Africa is facing the possibility of the biggest surge in the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is as the surge is said to be spreading faster and is projected to soon overtake the peak of the second wave that the continent witnessed earlier in 2021.
This disclosure was made by the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, while speaking on Thursday during an online news briefing on the 3rd wave of Covid-19 in Africa, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
At the current rate of infections, the ongoing surge is set to surpass the previous one by early July, as the pandemic is resurging in 12 African countries.
What WHO’s Regional Director for Africa is saying about the surge
Moeti pointed out that this new surge is driven by a couple of factors which include weak observance of public health measures, increased social interaction and movement as well as the spread of variants.
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She noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda are experiencing a new surge in Covid-19 infections. She also stated that the Delta variant has been detected in most samples sequenced in the past month, adding that across Africa, the variant first identified in India has been reported in 14 countries.
She said, “The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet.
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“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.’’
She said WHO is deploying more experts to some of the worst-affected countries, including Uganda and Zambia as well as supporting South Africa-based regional laboratories to monitor variants of concern.
The WHO Regional Director said, “In the next six months, WHO is aiming for an eight- to ten-fold increase in the samples sequenced each month in Southern African countries. The COVID-19 upsurge comes as the vaccine supply crunch persists.
“Eighteen African countries have used over 80 per cent of their COVAX vaccine supplies, with eight having exhausted their stocks. Twenty-nine countries have administered over 50 per cent of their supplies. Despite the progress, just over 1 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.
“Globally, around 2.7 billion doses administered, of which just under 1.5 per cent have been administered in the continent,” she said.
Moeti highlighted the importance of vaccination and coming up with other measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic
She said, “Measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission are crucial, but with many African countries having limited access to vaccines, it is important that vaccines be only one of the conditions countries use to open borders and increase freedom of movement.
“With high vaccination rates, it’s shaping up into a summer of freedom, family and fun for millions of people in richer countries. This is understandable and we all long for the same joys.
“Vaccine shortages are already prolonging the pain of COVID-19 in Africa. Let’s not add injury to injustice. Africans must not face more restrictions because they are unable to access vaccines that are only available elsewhere.
I urge all regional and national regulatory agencies to recognize all the vaccines Emergency Use listed by WHO.’’
What you should know
- The Covid-19 infection rate was reported to have risen for 5 consecutive weeks since the start of the third wave on May 3.
- As of June 20, 2021, Day 48 into the new wave, Africa had recorded around 474 000 new cases, a 21% increase compared with the first 48 days of the second wave.