By Zayamu Hassan
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Africa’s third wave of the COVID-19 is rising faster and higher than ever before and that many countries in the continent are still at the peak risk of the virus.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, gave the warning at an online media briefing on Thursday.
She, therefore, called for more protective measures to halt the spread.
Moeti further warned that the recently concluded Eid celebration may witness increase in cases of COVID-19 in the African continent.
According to her: “This small step forward offers hope and inspiration but must not mask the big picture for Africa. Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa’s third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before.
“The Eid celebrations which we marked this week may also result in a rise in cases. We must all double down on preventive measures to build on these fragile gains.”
The current peak, she explained, was 80 per cent higher than Africa’s previous peak, excluding data from South Africa.
Apart from the data from South Africa, the WHO Chief said that cases rose in Africa by 18 per cent to over 182 000 in the week ending on July 18.
She, however, revealed that Africa is set to received millions of doses of the vaccine in the next few months in an effort to meet the September 10 per cent vaccination target dateline.
“Around 60 million doses are set to arrive in the coming weeks from the United States of America, Team Europe, the United Kingdom, purchased doses, and other partners through the COVAX facility.
“Over half a billion doses are expected through COVAX alone this year,” she said.
No fewer than 21 frican countries, Meoti said, had seen cases rise by over 20 per cent for at least two weeks running, which was an increase of three countries over the previous week and the highly transmissible Delta variant had been found in 26 African countries.
While saying that the Alpha variant is in 38 countries and Beta is in 35, and that South Africa’s gains remain uncertain as protests have disrupted the country’s response including disease surveillance and testing, Moeti revealed that mass gatherings in the country could also trigger another rise in cases.
“A massive influx of doses means that Africa must go all out and speed up the vaccine rollout by five to six times if we are to get all these doses into arms and fully vaccinate the most vulnerable 10 per cent of all Africans by the end of September.
“Nearly 70 per cent of African countries will not reach the 10 per cent vaccination target for all countries by the end of September at the current pace.
“Around 3.5 million to four million doses are administered weekly on the continent, but to meet the September target this must rise to 21 million doses at the very least each week,” she noted.
While calling for efforts by countries in the region to boost uptake of the vaccine, Moeti said: “To increase uptake, countries must scale up operations, investments on operational costs, and address vaccine confidence.
“Countries need sufficient vaccine sites and health care workers, sufficient vaccine storage, and adequate transport and logistics for distribution,” she reiterated.