COVID-19 cases in Africa are surging by over 20% week-on-week as the continent’s third wave gains pace and nears the first wave peak of more than 120,000 weekly cases recorded in July 2020, new data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.
According to the data, COVID-19 cases rose to over 116,500 in the week ending on 13 June, up from the previous week’s nearly 91 000 cases, following one month of progressively rising case numbers that pushed the continent over the 5 million case mark.
New cases recorded weekly in the continent have now exceeded half of the second wave peak of more than 224,000 weekly cases in early January 2021. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Uganda have reported their highest number of new weekly cases since the pandemic began.
“Africa is in the midst of a full blown third wave. The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action. We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly COVID-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems. So public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate and care for patients and to quickly trace their contacts,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Along with other factors, a lack of adherence to transmission prevention measures has fuelled the new surge that coincides with colder seasonal weather in southern Africa and as more contagious variants spread. The Delta variant has been reported in 14 African countries and the Alpha and Beta variants have been found in over 25 African countries.
Africa’s rollout is picking-up speed with over 5 million doses administered in the past five days, compared with around 3.5 million doses per week for the past three weeks. Almost 12 million people are now fully vaccinated, but this is still less than 1% of Africa’s population.
“The rise in cases and deaths is an urgent wake up call for those countries lagging behind to rapidly expand vaccination sites, to reach priority groups for vaccination and to respond to community concerns. A number of African countries have shown that they can move vaccines quickly, so while we welcome the recent international vaccine pledges, if we are to curb the third wave Africa needs doses here and now,” said Dr Moeti.