The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the continent's death toll from COVID-19 has jumped 17 percent in the past month. In a media briefing Thursday, the Africa CDC said the infection rate has also increased and warned some countries are testing less often for the virus than needed.
In his weekly online press briefing from Ethiopia, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengosong, gave a grim picture of the continent’s COVID-19 situation during the month of July.
"There has been an average increase of four percent of new cases over that time period … in terms of new deaths in the last four weeks, we’ve recorded an average of 17 percent new deaths [in the continent’s most populous countries] over same period … in terms of testing as a continent, as of today we have conducted about 58 million COVID tests and last week alone the continent conducted about 1.3 million tests but that represents a decrease of 19 percent over the previous week," Nkengosong said. "Overall positivity rate stands at 11.2 percent.”
Overall, the continent recorded 239,000 coronavirus cases last week and 6,700 deaths, an increase of 700 deaths over the previous week.
The Africa CDC blames the increased deaths on virus-spreading events like the recent looting in South Africa and the celebration of Eid al-Hajj, the end of the Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca.
It also blames the delta variant, the most contagious form of coronavirus, which has spread across the globe in recent weeks.
The continent's public health agency was happy that some African countries like South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya have managed to limit the virus while allowing economic activities to go on.
Africa has so far received about 80 million vaccine doses from COVAX, the UN-backed global initiative to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
The senior director for Africa at the U.S. National Security Council, Dana Banks, said Wednesday her country has started to ship some ten million vaccines to Africa.
"We are happy to announce that we will be sending over 5 million doses to South Africa … of Pfizer vaccines as well as 4 million doses of Moderna vaccine to Nigeria…. So we’re very excited about that and we hope that these will go a long way in helping to provide safety and health security for the people of Nigeria and South Africa, which will then enable them to get back to their regular activities, their economic activities, and help them to build back better," Banks said.
The World Health Organization has said at least 700 million vaccines will be sent to Africa by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate about 30 percent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
However, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director, said African governments and health officials need to do more to encourage people to get the vaccines.
"With the expected influx of vaccines, it's crucial that countries scale up all the aspects of vaccine rollout to reach as many people as possible," Moeti said. "This entails mobilizing adequate resources including finances for the vaccination activities, for the logistics and for the personnel as well as addressing any concerns by communities including those fueled by misinformation to increase vaccine confidence and demand.”
So far, less than 2 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The continent has officially recorded 6.5 million cases of the disease, although the real number is believed to be significantly higher.