Africa still recording surging COVID-19 infection cases
China Daily

People practice social distancing as they queue outside a Telkom branch during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)

COVID-19 cases are again surging across Africa after a slight dip, with deaths peaking week-on-week.

According to the World Health Organization, weekly COVID-19 deaths across the continent reached a record peak, standing at 6,400, in the week ending Aug 1.

The figure translates to a 2 percent increase compared to the previous week, with South Africa and Tunisia accounting for over 55 percent of the fatalities.

To date, South Africa, which is the most affected country in the continent in terms of COVID-19 infection and death cases, has reported over 2.5 million infection cases and more than 74,000 deaths.

Tunisia on the other hand, is the third most affected country in Africa, with a total of 611,023 infection cases and 20,808 deaths as at Saturday.

The WHO said death trends are on the rise in 15 African countries, of which 12 have reported higher case fatality rates than the African average of 2.5 percent over the last month.

"It's a sad day for Africa. Our hearts go out to everyone who has lost friends and loved ones. Deaths have peaked week-on-week on the continent and after a slight dip, COVID-19 cases are surging again," Phionah Atuhebwe, the new vaccines introduction officer at the WHO regional office for Africa, said during a virtual news briefing on Thursday.

"The latest data tells us that Africa is still on the crest of the third wave, still recording more cases than in any earlier peak, and that we cannot take anything for granted," Atuhebwe said.

COVID-19 cases, on the other hand rose, by 19 percent to over 278, 000 in the week ending Aug 1, according to WHO data.

South Africa accounted for 29 percent of the cases, which remain close to Africa's record high of 286,000 weekly cases recorded in early July.

So far, 22 African countries have reported an over 20 percent increase in infection cases for at least two weeks running.

According to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 African Union member states have reported the highly transmissible Delta variant, first reported in India.

The variant has been attributed to Africa's brutal COVID-19 third wave that has left hospitals overwhelmed and oxygen stocks exhausted.

The Alpha variant, first found in the United Kingdom, has been reported in 39 African countries, while the Beta variant first reported in South Africa has been found in 36 African countries.

During his weekly virtual briefing on Thursday, John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa CDC announced that one AU member state had reported the Gamma variant, first detected in Brazil.

Despite the surging COVID-19 cases, Africa is recording positive progress on vaccine shipment.

"After a tough three months, we're seeing more positive prospects in terms of vaccine shipments to Africa," Atuhebwe said.

"Unsteady supplies are the main reason Africa's COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been slow, so as shipments ramp up it is crucial that African countries put comprehensive vaccination strategies in place to swiftly and efficiently protect the most vulnerable."

According to the Africa CDC, 103 million COVID-19 doses have been procured by 53 AU member states to date, of which 70.6 million doses have been administered.

So far, 1.6 percent of Africa's 1.2 billion population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Thursday, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, on Thursday echoed a call by Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster jabs.

"As COVID-19 deaths continue to surge in Africa, I echo Dr Tedros' call for a moratorium on booster shots of COVID19 vaccines. It's deeply unjust that some countries are already administering third shots while 98 percent of Africans remain unvaccinated, facing higher risk of death," Moeti wrote in his official Twitter account.

Eritrea, and Burundi are the only AU member states that are yet to start the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.