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Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa/FILE

Africa

WHO warns of fast surging third COVID-19 wave in Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – COVID-19 cases have risen for five consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave in May, with the epidemic said to be resurging in 14 African countries.

As of June 20, the continent had recorded around 474 000 new cases — a 21 per cent increase compared with the first 48 days of the second wave.

The World Health Organization projected with the current rate of infections, the ongoing surge is set to surpass the previous one by early July.

World Health Organization (WHO) stated that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda that are experiencing COVID-19 resurgence, the Delta variant has been detected in most samples sequenced in the past month.

“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.”

The WHO attributed the resurgence to a combination of factors including weak observance of public health measures; increased social interaction and movement.

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To counter measure the adverse effects the COVID 19 third wave spread to the continent, WHO said it was 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 organization is also boosting innovative technological support to other laboratories in the region without sequencing capacities to better monitor the evolution of the virus. 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,” she said.

Despite the progress in the COVID 19 vaccination drive, just over 1 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. Globally, around 2.7 billion doses have been administered, with less than 1.5 per cent having been administered in the continent.

“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,” said Dr Moeti during a virtual press conference.

Still on the vaccination drive, WHO noted that 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.

“Vaccine shortages are already prolonging the pain of COVID-19 in Africa. Let us 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,” said Dr Moeti.

In Kenya, over 1.2 million people have so far been vaccinated against the virus with the country’s positivity rate standing at 10.7 per cent.

The Ministry of Health on Friday announced that 741 people tested positive from a sample size 6,955 pushing the total caseload to 181, 239.

Twenty-four COVID-19 deaths were reported raising fatalities to 3, 538.

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Another 99 people were discharged after recovering from the virus bringing the total recoveries to 123, 462.

The ministry said 1,059 other patients were admitted in various hospitals across the country among them 100 in the Intensive Care Unit.

 

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