For five weeks in a row, Africa has recorded 474,000 new Covid-19 cases as healthcare systems buckle under the weight of a third wave of infections.
The new infections represent a 21 per cent increase compared to the first 48 days when the second Coronavirus wave battered Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has singled out 12 African countries, saying poor observance of public health curbs, unchecked social interactions and travel as well as the spread of new variants is to blame for the steady surge.
In Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, countries battling a intense COVID-19 resurgence, the Delta variant has been detected in most samples tested in the past month.
Across Africa, the Delta variant, which was first identified in the South Asian nation of India, has so far been reported in 14 countries.
“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,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“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.”
In response, the WHO is deploying more experts to some of the worst-affected countries, including neighbouring Uganda and Zambia as well as supporting South Africa-based regional laboratories to monitor the variants of concern.
The COVID-19 upsurge comes as the vaccine supply hitches keep derailing vaccination campaigns.
So far, the WHO statistics show that 18 African countries have used over 80 per cent of their COVAX vaccine stocks, with eight having exhausted their doses already.
A total of 29 countries have administered over 50 per cent of their supplies. However, just over one 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.
Globally, 16 countries are waiving quarantine for those with a vaccination certificate.
“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,” said Dr Moeti. “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.”
In Africa, a WHO survey of 45 countries shows that their borders are open for air travel and only the island nation of Mauritius is requiring proof of vaccination for international travelers from July 15.