The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Thursday that the African continent was facing a third wave of coronavirus cases, driven by new variants including that of Delta which is the cause.
In a virtual briefing, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said new cases had increased on average by 25% in Africa for six consecutive weeks, to reach nearly 202,000 during the week ending June 27. She said deaths had increased by 15%. in 38 African countries to nearly 3,000 during the same period.
Moeti said this wave is driven by more contagious variants of the coronavirus, “Raising the threat to Africa to a whole new level”. She said that of the 14 African countries currently in resurgence, 12 have detected worrying variants, including nine with the Delta variant, originally identified in India.
Meanwhile, she said the Alpha and Beta variants have been reported in 32 and 27 countries respectively.
Moeti said hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks can certainly help slow the spread, but globally, vaccines have been shown to offer the best way to end devastating outbreaks.
Just over 1% of Africans are now fully vaccinated, compared to 11% of the world’s population and over 46% of people in the United States and Britain.
Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said the WHO-run international vaccine cooperative COVAX had pledged to deliver 700 million doses of vaccine to Africa by December. But so far Africa has only received 65 million doses in total and less than 50 million doses have arrived via COVAX.
However, the two executives announced that the first shipments of the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech single-injection vaccines, with support from the United States, will begin arriving next week.