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COVID-19 Cases Are On The Rise In Africa, Approaching Peak Of First Wave

According to fresh statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 cases in Africa are increasing by more than 20% week on week as the continent’s third wave picks up speed and approaches the first wave peak of more than 120 000 weekly cases in July 2020.COVID is a virus that infects people.

Following a month of steadily climbing case statistics that pushed the continent over the 5 million case milestone, 19 cases increased to over 116 500 in the week ending June 13th, up from almost 91 000 the week before. In the week ending June 13, cases increased by more than 20% in 22 African countries, accounting for over 40% of Africa’s 54 countries.
Over 2200 people died in 36 nations during the same period, an increase of nearly 15%.

Weekly new cases in Africa have now surpassed half of the second wave peak of around 224 000 cases in early January 2021.

Since the pandemic began, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, and Uganda have recorded the largest number of new weekly cases.

“Africa is in the midst of a full-blown third wave,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The alarming trend of increasing instances should jolt everyone into action.

We’ve seen how rapidly COVID-19 may recover and overwhelm health systems in India and elsewhere.

As a result, public health measures must be scaled up quickly to discover, test, isolate, and care for patients, as well as to track them down promptly trace their contacts

According to her; “Along with other factors, a lack of adherence to transmission prevention measures has fuelled the new surge that coincides with colder seasonal weather in southern Africa and as more contagious variants spread. The Delta variant has been reported in 14 African countries and the Alpha and Beta variants have been found in over 25 African countries. 

“Africa’s rollout is picking-up speed with over 5 million doses administered in the past five days, compared with around 3.5 million doses per week for the past three weeks. Almost 12 million people are now fully vaccinated, but this is still less than 1% of Africa’s population.

“Twenty-three African countries have used less than half of the doses they have received so far, including four of the countries experiencing a resurgence. About 1.25 million AstraZeneca doses in 18 countries must be used by the end of August to avoid expiration. Seven African countries have already used 100% of the vaccines they received through COVAX and seven more have administered over 80%.

Moeti continued; “The rise in cases and deaths is an urgent wake up call for those countries lagging behind to rapidly expand vaccination sites, to reach priority groups for vaccination and to respond to community concerns. 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.

“Nearly 85% of all vaccine doses globally have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries – an average of 68 doses per 100 people in high-income countries compared with nearly 2 doses per 100 people in Africa. The number of doses administered globally so far would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people, if they had been distributed equitably.”

She hinted that , WHO is supporting countries to review and implement resurgence plans down to the district level and is pre-positioning supplies to be ready to deploy to countries that need them. WHO is also expanding access to easy-to-use antigen-detection rapid diagnostic tests in communities that would otherwise not have ready access to the standard polymerase chain reaction testing for COVID-19.

Through a WHO-led regional COVID-19 laboratory referral network, WHO is working with countries to ship samples for sequencing to better understand where and to what degree variants are circulating. 

WHO is at the centre of Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, working to coordinate all efforts, giving policy and technical guidance and tailored support to African countries with a range of partners, including assisting countries speed up their rollouts. 

With partners, WHO is engaging communities in African countries through their leaders and associations, and social media channels, to promote adherence to the preventive measures, to counter rumours and misinformation and to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Dr Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Hon Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, Minister of Health, Uganda, and Hon Dr Rémy Lamah, Minister of Health, Guinea. Also on hand to answer questions were Dr Richard Mihigo, Coordinator, Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr Thierno Balde, Team Leader, Operational Partnerships, WHO Regional Office for Africa.  

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