The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Africa is currently experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, disclosed this at a media briefing on Thursday.
The development comes amid concerns over new variants of COVID-19, said to be responsible for increased infection rates.
On Tuesday, the ministry of health in Zambia had said the country’s bed occupancy rate in COVID care centres had exceeded 100 percent.
Moeti, who noted that several countries in Africa have experienced a surge in infections, said it is time to step up efforts on vaccination.
“Africa is in the midst of a full blown third wave. The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action. We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly COVID-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems. So public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate and care for patients and to quickly trace their contacts,” she said.
“The rise in cases and deaths is an urgent wake up call for those countries lagging behind to rapidly expand vaccination sites, to reach priority groups for vaccination and to respond to community concerns.
“A number of African countries have shown that they can move vaccines quickly, so while we welcome the recent international vaccine pledges, if we are to curb the third wave, Africa needs doses here and now.”
According to a statement from the WHO, “COVID-19 cases in Africa are surging by over 20% week-on-week as the continent’s third wave gains pace and nears the first wave peak of more than 120,000 weekly cases recorded in July 2020”.
“COVID-19 cases rose to over 116,500 in the week ending on 13 June, up from the previous week’s nearly 91 000 cases, following one month of progressively rising case numbers that pushed the continent over the 5 million case mark. In 22 African countries—nearly 40% of Africa’s 54 nations—cases rose by over 20% in the week ending on 13 June. During the same week, deaths rose by nearly 15% to over 2200 in 36 countries,” the statement reads.
“New cases recorded weekly in Africa have now exceeded half of the second wave peak of more than 224,000 weekly cases in early January 2021. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Uganda have reported their highest number of new weekly cases since the pandemic began.”
“Along with other factors, a lack of adherence to transmission prevention measures has fuelled the new surge that coincides with colder seasonal weather in southern Africa and as more contagious variants spread. The Delta variant has been reported in 14 African countries and the Alpha and Beta variants have been found in over 25 African countries.”