Africa faces COVID-19 caseload at historic high amid third wave

Uganda reports 1,584 new COVID-19 cases, 34 deaths ahead of Museveni's national address

The number of COVID-19 cases in Africa has surged at an unprecedented pace as the continent grapples with a third wave that has posed a dire threat to public health infrastructure, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said Thursday.

Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said the continent is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 infections fueled by the easing of containment measures, cold weather and the presence of new variants.

“We’ve surged past last year’s peak. And at the current pace, continental cases will surpass the second wave’s peak in just about three weeks. This is incredibly worrying. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet. The epidemic is resurging in 12 African countries, and we are closely monitoring rising cases in another 14. Health systems are already pushed to breaking point in a number of African countries,” Moeti said.

She also said the continent can avert the worst outcomes as it struggles with the third COVID-19 wave of infections, subject to strict adherence to public health protocols combined with a speedy vaccination roll-out.

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Statistics from Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) indicated that the continent had 5,294,714 COVID-19 cases and 139,397 deaths as of Thursday.

Moeti said that COVID-19 infections have been on an upward trajectory in Africa in the last five weeks since the onset of the third wave on May 3, adding that a total of 474,000 new cases were seen as of June 20, a 21-percent increase compared with last year.

According to Moeti, the Delta variant that was initially reported in India has been detected in 14 African countries and in the last month it has been identified in the majority of samples sequenced in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She said WHO has dispatched experts to some of the countries experiencing unprecedented surges including Uganda and Zambia to boost mitigation measures including timely diagnosis and treatment.

Moeti said boosting the capacity of the continent’s laboratories to monitor and sequence variants of concern has been prioritized in a bid to reduce the intensity of the third wave.

She also added that the imbalance of vaccine distribution was also one of the reasons that led to a resurgence in Africa, as the continent has just received 1.5 percent of the 2.7 billion vaccines globally.

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