ADDIS ABABA – Africa marked its worst pandemic week ever, surpassing the second wave peak during the seven days ending on 4 July 2021.
Yet, as the COVID-19 cases climb sharply, there are signs of progress on vaccine deliveries to the continent, says the UN health organisation (WHO).
COVID-19 cases have risen for seven consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave on 3 May 2021.
During the week ending 4 July, the UN health agency report shows more than 251 000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on the continent, amounting to a 20% increase over the previous week and a 12% jump from the January peak.
Sixteen African countries are now in resurgence, with Malawi and Senegal added this week. The Delta variant has been detected in 10 of these countries.
“Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a press briefing today.
“But the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground,” she added.
The regional director said the end to the current sharp rise “is still weeks away”.
“Cases are doubling now every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago,” Dr. Moeti continued. “We can still break the chain of transmission by testing, isolating contacts and cases and following key public health measures”.
The current upsurge comes while vaccination rates remain low in Africa. But there are hopeful signs.
After almost grinding to a halt in May and early June, vaccine deliveries from the COVAX Facility are gathering momentum.
In the past two weeks, more than 1.6 million doses were delivered to Africa through COVAX.
More than 20 million Johnson&Johnson vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to arrive imminently from the United States through COVAX, in coordination with the African Union.
‘Third wave looms’
Forty-nine countries have been notified of the allocations they will receive, the WHO said, adding other significant donations from Norway and Sweden are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
“COVAX partners are working around the clock to clinch dose-sharing pledges and procurement deals with manufacturers to ensure that the most vulnerable Africans get a COVID-19 vaccination quickly,” said Dr Moeti.
So far, 66 million doses have been delivered to Africa, including 40 million doses secured through bilateral deals, 25 million COVAX-supplied doses and 800 000 doses supplied by the African Union African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
“These efforts are paying off. Our appeals for ‘we first and not me first’ are finally turning talk into action. But the deliveries can’t come soon enough because the third wave looms large across the continent,” the regional director said.