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Africa faces steepest Covid-19 surge yet, says WHO

Africa is facing a fast-surging third wave of Covid-19 pandemic, with cases now spreading more rapidly.

It is projected to soon overtake the peak of the second wave the continent witnessed at the start of 2021.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO), Regional Director for Africa, said today that Covid-19 cases have risen for five consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave on May 3rd 2021.

“As of 20 June, day 48 into the new wave, Africa had recorded around 474, 000 new cases, a 21 per cent increase compared with the first 48 days of the second wave”, Dr. Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference, today.

She said that at the current rate of infections, the ongoing surge is set to surpass the previous one by early July.

According to WHO, the pandemic is resurging in 12 African countries, with the Republic of the Congo and Uganda experiencing Covid-19 resurgence.

A combination of factors, including weak observance of public health measures, increased social interaction and movement as well as the spread of variants are powering the new surge.

“The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” said Dr. Moeti said.

Africa, she added can still blunt the impact of these fast-rising infections, but the window of opportunity is closing and everyone everywhere can do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission.

WHO Regional Director, said is deploying more experts to some of the worst-affected countries, including Uganda and Zambia as well as supporting South Africa-based regional laboratories to monitor variants of concern.

“WHO is also boosting innovative technological support to other laboratories in the region without sequencing capacities to better monitor the evolution of the virus”, she said.

The Covid-19 upsurge comes as the vaccine supply crunch persists with Eighteen (18) African countries having used over 80 per cent of their COVAX vaccine supplies.

Despite the progress, WHO says that just over one (1) per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.

Globally, around 2.7 billion doses have been administered of which just under 1.5 per cent administered in the continent.

Globally,16 countries are waiving quarantine for those with a vaccination certificate and considering measures to prevent Covid-19 transmission are crucial, and with many African countries having limited access to vaccines, it is important that vaccines be only one of the conditions countries use to open borders and increase freedom of movement.

In Africa, a WHO survey of 45 countries show that their borders are open for air travel and only Mauritius will require proof of vaccination for international travelers from 15 July 2021.

Most countries do not give quarantine exemptions for travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and require a negative Covid-19 test.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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