Africa battles new covid-19 wave hitting faster and harder. Senegal DAKAR – Africa is facing a horrific resurgence of COVID-19 infections and will surpass previous waves as continental countries struggle to vaccinate even a small percentage of their population.
“The third wave speeds up, spreads faster and hits harder,” WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said Thursday.
“The recent surge will be the worst in Africa as the number of soaring cases and reports of serious diseases rise,” she said at a weekly briefing. “Africa may still be able to slow the impact of these burgeoning infections, but the window of opportunity allows everyone to do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission.”
New cases have been on the rise since early May, according to WHO Africa, and by early July, resurrections will outpace previous waves. Reduced compliance with public health measures, increased social interaction without masks, and new variants contributed to more cases. Moeti encouraged the government to do more to make masks and sanitation more accessible to residents.
The delta strain that ravaged India has been found in at least 14 African countries, including Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, and Uganda. Delta strains may have played a “very important role” in a “very devastating” third wave of COVID-19 in at least 20 countries across Africa, said John Nkengasong, director of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The third wave is extremely cruel,” he added, adding that more and more health centers are being overwhelmed. African countries urgently need a vaccine to fight the disease, he said.
“We are completely behind and we don’t have a vaccine,” Nkengasong said.
Africa has more than 5.2 million confirmed cases of the virus, including more than 139,000 deaths, according to the African CDC. Critically, only 1% of the 1.3 billion people on the continent are vaccinated, according to the WHO and CDC. According to WHO Africa, about 2.7 billion vaccines have been administered worldwide, of which less than 1.5% have been administered on the continent.
The UN-backed COVAX initiative has provided vaccines to low- and middle-income countries but has failed to achieve the goal of equal access. More than 80% of COVAX vaccine supplies have been used in 18 African countries, with 8 out of stock.
“Our work at COVAX has been greatly challenged by vaccine availability,” Moeti added, adding that the WHO is willing to consider all available vaccines and will do everything possible to make the vaccine available at a global level. “Our goal is to actually get a vaccine and reduce the inequality in the current situation,” she said.
She criticized restrictions that might exacerbate inequality, arguing that Africans should not face more travel restrictions because they do not have access to the same vaccines available elsewhere. “Let’s not harm injustice,” she said. “Vaccine shortages are already prolonging the suffering of COVID-19 in Africa.”