Although new COVID-19 cases in Africa have slowed following an eight-week surge, this “small step forward” could be short-lived, the Regional Office of the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
Cases on the continent fell by 1.7 per cent this week to nearly 282,000, largely due to a sharp decline in South Africa, home to the bulk of reported infections.
However, removing the country from the data would show an 18 per cent increase, or more than 182,000 cases: what the UN agency called a uniquely steep and unbroken nine-week surge.
“Be under no illusions, Africa’s third wave is absolutely not over.
This small step forward offers hope and inspiration but must not mask the big picture for Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa’s third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before.
The Eid celebrations which we marked this week may also result in a rise in cases. We must all double down on prevention measures to build on these fragile gains.”
WHO said 21 African countries have seen cases rise by over 20 per cent for at least two consecutive weeks, which is three more than in the previous week.
The highly transmissible Delta variant has been found in 26 countries, while the Alpha and Beta variants have been reported in 38 and 35 nations, respectively.
The WHO has been urging Governments to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations as the squeeze on vaccine shipments eases.
COVAX is also expected to deliver over half a billion doses alone this year.
“A massive influx of doses means that Africa must go all out and speed up the vaccine rollout by five to six times if we are to get all these doses into arms and fully vaccinate the most vulnerable 10 per cent of all Africans by the end of September,” said Dr. Moeti.
Around 3.5 million to four million vaccines are administered weekly in Africa, but numbers will have to rise to 21 million weekly at minimum to reach the September goal.
So far, the continent has received just 1.7 per cent of the world’s 3.7 billion doses, and 20 million people there, only 1.5 per cent of the population, have been fully inoculated according UN News.
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