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Worst yet to come for Africa as COVID-19 cases rise for 7th consecutive week — WHO

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As COVID-19 cases rose for the seventh consecutive week since the onset of the third wave on 3rd of May 2021, Africa faced its worst pandemic week ever during the week ending 4th of July, 2021 with more than 251,000 new COVID-19 cases amounting to a 20 percent increase over the previous week and a 12 percent jump from the January peak.

But the worst may be yet to come. Currently, 16 African countries are now in resurgence, with the Delta variant detected in 10 of these countries.

With just 16 million, or less than 2 percent of the continent’s 1.3 billion population fully vaccinated, 19 countries have used more than 80 percent of their COVAX-supplied doses, while 31 countries have used more than 50 percent.

Disclosing this and more during a virtual press conference on Thursday, the World Health Organisation, WHO, Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that the current upsurge comes while vaccination rates remain low in the continent.

Moeti, who noted that even though momentum was gathering to deliver more vaccine doses through the COVAX facility, remarked that the worst was yet to come.

“Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever. But the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground.

“The end to this precipitous rise is still weeks away. Cases are doubling now every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago. We can still break the chain of transmission by testing, isolating contacts and cases and following key public health measures,” said Moeti.

On vaccine distribution from the COVAX Facility, she said more than 1.6 million doses were delivered to Africa through COVAX even as more than 20 million Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to arrive imminently from the US through COVAX, in coordination with the African Union.

“COVAX partners are working around the clock to clinch dose-sharing pledges and procurement deals with manufacturers to ensure that the most vulnerable Africans get a COVID-19 vaccination quickly.

“These efforts are paying off. Our appeals for ‘we first and not me first’ are finally turning talk into action. But the deliveries can’t come soon enough because the third wave looms large across the continent,” Moeti said.

So far, 66 million doses have been delivered to Africa, including 40 million doses secured through bilateral deals, 25 million COVAX-supplied doses and 800, 000 doses supplied by the African Union African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. The 50 million doses administered to date account for just 1.6 percent of doses administered globally.

According to Moeti, 16 million, or less than 2 percent, of Africans, are now fully vaccinated even as 19 countries have used more than 80 percent of their COVAX-supplied doses, while 31 countries have used more than 50 percent.

“With much larger COVID-19 vaccine deliveries expected to arrive in July and August, African countries must use this time to prepare to rapidly expand the roll-out. Governments and partners can do this by planning to expand vaccination sites, improving cold chain capacities beyond capital cities, sensitising communities to boost vaccine confidence and demand, and ensuring that operational funding is ready to go when it is needed.”

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