COVID third wave: Infections spreading faster than ever in Africa, says WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Africa is experiencing a “speedy” spread in infection rates, as the continent battles a third wave of COVID-19.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, disclosed this in a statement issued after a media briefing on Thursday.

According to the WHO, infection rates are doubling every week, and the virus is spreading faster than previous records.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before. The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level,” Moeti said.

“More transmission means more serious illness and more deaths, so everyone must act now and boost prevention measures to stop an emergency becoming a tragedy.”

Giving a breakdown of the recent case count across countries, WHO noted that the numbers are climbing “faster than all earlier peaks”, while “new and faster spreading variants are fuelling the continent’s surging third wave”.

“Cases have increased in Africa for six weeks running and rose by 25% week-on-week to almost 202 000 in the week ending on June 27th, reaching nine tenths of the continent’s previous record of 224 000 new cases. Deaths rose by 15% across 38 African countries to nearly 3000 in the same period,” the statement reads.

“With case numbers doubling in Africa every three weeks, the Delta variant is spreading to a growing number of countries. It has been reported in 16 countries, including nine with surging cases. It is the most contagious variant yet, an estimated 30%–60% more transmissible than other variants. It is in three of the five countries reporting the highest caseloads for the week ending 27 June.

“And it is dominant in South Africa, which accounted for more than half of Africa’s cases in the same period. According to the latest country reports, the Delta variant was detected in 97% of samples sequenced in Uganda and 79% of samples sequenced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Moeti called for improved efforts to ensure equitable vaccine distribution, especially for African countries.

“While supply challenges grind on, dose sharing can help plug the gap. We are grateful for the pledges made by our international partners, but we need urgent action on allocations. Africa must not be left languishing in the throes of its worst wave yet,” she said.

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