AFRICA – The Delta variant of coronavirus is driving the pandemic forward in Africa at record speeds, the World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned.
Infection numbers have increased in Africa for six weeks running, rising by a quarter week-on-week to almost 202,000 in the week that ended Sunday, it said.
The continent’s weekly record currently stands at 224,000 new cases while deaths rose by 15 percent across 38 African countries to nearly 3,000 in the same period.
“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement.
The highly contagious Delta variant has been reported in 16 countries, accounting for 97 percent of samples sequenced in Uganda and 79 percent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Oxygen demand in Africa is now 50 percent higher than at the peak of the first wave, a year ago.
“The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level,” Moeti said.
The head of the DRC’s fight against Covid warned, meanwhile, of catastrophe if the Delta variant keeps rapidly spreading in the country.
“Our hospitals are overwhelmed, the morgues are overflowing, many politicians and university professors have been infected with the virus, and many have died,” Jean-Jacques Muyembe, head of the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB).
DR Congo recorded 112 new cases over the past 24 hours, including 76 in the capital and epicenter of its epidemic Kinshasa, raising the country’s total to 41,353. It has also recorded a total of 933 deaths.
At least 52,694,781 COVID-19 tests have been conducted by African countries in the past week, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has said.
The Africa CDC said 1,378,735 new tests were carried out during the past week, registering a 15 percent increase from tests carried out in the previous week, the agency announced in its latest continental update.
According to the agency, the overall positivity rate of the continent was 10.4 percent. As of Thursday afternoon, the number of COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 5,509,362.
South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Egypt are the countries with the most cases in the continent, according to the Africa CDC.
South Africa has recorded the highest COVID-19 cases in Africa, at 1,973,972, while the northern African country Morocco reported 531,361 cases.
In a move to deal with the alarming rise in infections, Tunisia has gone under partial lockdown.
Authorities have placed the Tunisian capital under a partial lockdown from Thursday in a bid to rein in record daily coronavirus cases and deaths.
Many Tunisian hospitals are at full capacity and medics say they are unable to cope.
Four inland regions of the North African country have also been under total lockdown since June 20 as cases have spiraled.
The health ministry announced a record 5,921 cases and 116 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the latest figures available in the country of 12 million.
Tunisia has struggled with a lack of vaccines and has so far administered initial jabs to around 15 percent of its population, with just over half a million receiving the full two doses.
This is as many African countries suffer from a crippling shortage of Covid vaccines.
WHO has reported that only 15 million people, just 1.2 percent of the African population, are fully vaccinated.
However, the situation is bound to change as Africa will start receiving U.S. COVID-19 vaccine doses next week, a special envoy of the African Union has announced.
President Joe Biden’s administration announced last month it would donate 500 million Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses to the 100 lowest income countries in the world and will seek no favors in exchange for the doses.
Strive Masiyiwa told a weekly online briefing of the Africa Centers for Disease Control that the donations consisted largely of Pfizer doses and a few Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
“We begin to ship by this weekend the U.S. donations. Therefore, some countries will begin to receive shipments of Johnson and Johnson, while others will receive Pfizer shipments. No country will receive both,” Masiyiwa said