The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Thursday that the African continent is facing a surging third wave of COVID-19 cases, driven by new and faster variants of the coronavirus that causes it.
During a virtual briefing, WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said new cases have increased by an average of 25 percent in Africa for six straight weeks, to almost 202,000 in the week ending on June 27. She said deaths rose by 15 percent across 38 African countries to nearly 3,000 in the same period.
Moeti said this wave is being driven by more contagious COVID-19 variants, “raising the threat to Africa to a whole new level.” She said among the 14 African countries now in resurgence, 12 have detected variants of concern, 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 mask wearing can certainly help slow the spread, but globally, it has been shown that vaccines offer the best path toward ending devastating surges.
Just over 1% of Africans are now fully vaccinated, compared to 11% of people globally, and over 46% of people in the United States and Britain.
Earlier Thursday, in interviews with the Associated Press, African Union Vaccine Envoy Strive Masiyiwa blasted Europe and international suppliers for failing to deliver promised vaccine.
Masiyiwa said that while Europe has promised to sell vaccines to Africa, so far, it has not followed through. He said, “The fact of the matter is the EU has vaccine factories. It has vaccine production centers across Europe. Not a single dose, not one vial has left a European factory for Africa.”
African CDC Director John Nkengasong said the WHO-managed international vaccine cooperative COVAX had promised to deliver 700 million vaccine doses to Africa by December. But to date, Africa has received just 65 million doses overall and fewer than 50 million doses have arrived through COVAX.
However, both leaders did announce that the first shipments of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, with U.S. support, will begin arriving next week.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.