CONGO – WHO has reported that Africa marked its worst pandemic week ever, surpassing the second wave peak during the seven days ending on 4 July 2021.

So far, Africa has reported 5,775,140 coronavirus cases, 148,701 fatalities and over 4.9 million recoveries.

Even so, there have been signs of relief as progress has been observed on vaccine deliveries to the continent.

COVID-19 cases have risen for seven consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave on 3 May 2021.

During the week ending 4 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 countries.

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.

She says the end to this precipitous rise is still weeks away as cases are doubling now every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago.

The current upsurge comes while vaccination rates remain low in Africa. Nevertheless, there are hopeful signs. After almost grinding to a halt in May and early June, 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 Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to arrive imminently from the United States through COVAX, in coordination with the African Union.

Other significant donations from Norway and Sweden are expected to arrive in the coming weeks as Forty-nine countries have been notified of the allocations they will receive.

COVAX partners are working around the clock to clinch dose-sharing pledges and procurement deals with manufacturers to ensure that the most vulnerable Africans get a COVID-19 vaccination quickly,” said Dr Moeti.

So far, 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%.

WHO has been working with countries to conduct reviews of the first phase of the roll-out so that they can implement the lessons learned during this important second phase.

A series of WHO webinars have facilitated intra-country learning from countries that have had successful roll-outs, such as Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Ghana and Rwanda.