Employees of the Tunisian community saw them carry a coffin of a COVID-19 victim in the regional hospital during the coronavirus infection.
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Africa, where less than 2% of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19, saw the worst increase in cases since the pandemic began last week, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
The second largest continent saw more than 251,000 new Covid cases in the week ending July 4, a 20% increase from the previous week and a 12% increase from the January high. Active cases in Africa recently topped 642,000, beating a peak in the second wave of 528,000 active cases in January, according to a BBC analysis of the Johns Hopkins University data.
“Africa has just marked the continent’s worst pandemic week ever. But the worst is yet to come as the fast-paced third wave continues to accelerate and gain new terrain,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The end of this steep climb is still weeks away. Cases are now doubling every 18 days compared to all 21 days a week ago.”
A security guard takes a man’s temperature at the entrance of a market in Kampala, Uganda on June 20, 2021.
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More than sixteen African countries, including Malawi and Senegal, are seeing an increase in new cases. In at least 10 of these countries the more easily transferable delta variant was found.
Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Zambia, Rwanda and Tunisia are also experiencing some of the worst spikes in infections, the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Hospital admissions have increased more than 40% across the continent in recent weeks.
“The alarm bells should ring,” says Dr. Tom Kenyon, Chief Health Officer at Project HOPE and former director of the Center for Global Health at the US CDC. He said Africa’s rate of new cases will soon surpass Asia’s. “Given the horrors we have just seen in India, this should be cause for concern and action.”
He said the Covid emergency in Africa “could get worse than anywhere else we’ve seen”.
South Africa is currently battling a devastating third wave of infections after the Delta variant forced the country back into lockdown on June 28. The country is currently under curfew while less than 1% of residents are vaccinated against Covid. Across the continent, less than 2% of people were vaccinated due to a slow international introduction of vaccines that kept poor countries waiting for life-saving syringes. The 50 million doses administered so far in Africa represent only 1.6% of the doses administered worldwide.
A resident receives a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca Plc at Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.
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“Vaccination nationalism, in which a handful of nations have taken the lion’s share, is morally unjustifiable and an ineffective strategy for public health,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference on Wednesday. Tedros also blamed the lack of immunization justice for a “wave of death” in parts of the world, including Africa.
Vaccine deliveries by Covax, a global initiative aimed at ensuring fair access to Covid vaccines, are finally picking up speed after months of delay. More than 1.6 million cans were delivered to Africa through the initiative and more than 20 million cans from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Vaccines are due to be delivered to the continent soon. Norway and Sweden will also donate large quantities of vaccines to Africa.
“Some vaccine shipments are expected in August, but nowhere near what is needed,” said Kenyon, who also served as CDC country director in Botswana, Namibia and Ethiopia. “To be successful, vaccine supply must be paired with trained personnel and delivery systems.”
A total of 66 million cans were shipped to Africa, with 40 million cans acquired through bilateral agreements, 25 million delivered through Covax, and 800,000 cans delivered by the African Union Acquisition Acquisition Task Team.
“With much larger Covid-19 vaccine shipments expected in July and August, African countries must use this time to prepare for a rapid roll-out,” said Moeti. By comparison, the US has administered approximately 332 million shots to 55% of the population, according to the US CDC.
Roofing Rolling Mills workers load oxygen tanks onto a vehicle for free delivery to various hospitals in Uganda at their plant in Namanve, Wakiso, Uganda on June 29, 2021.
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