Covid-19 Surge Drops in Africa, But “Be Under No Illusions” WHO Warns

The AU is aiming to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s population to reach herd immunity.

KNH's Jemimah Katana a health worker receiving her Covid-19 vaccine. PHOTO: MOH Kenya

Africa continent has witnessed a substantial drop in Covid-19 cases, ‘the first time in 8 weeks, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

New case numbers in Africa fell by 1.7% to nearly 282 000 in the week ending 18 July.

This was largely attributed to a sharp drop in South Africa which accounts for the bulk of the continent’s reported cases.

“We must double down on prevention to build on these initial positive steps,” WHO’s regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, noted.

“Twenty-one countries are experiencing a resurgence.”

Besides, she also warns that “the gains in South Africa are also uncertain.” Over the past week the country was riven by violent political protests.

“These have disrupted key response activities, such as surveillance and testing,” said Moeti. “There are also real concerns that the mass gatherings could trigger another rise in cases in South Africa.”

Consequently, Africa’s current wave has largely been driven by the Delta variant.

According to WHO, the Delta variant has now been found in 26 African countries.

Delta is about two times as transmissible as the original strain of COVID contributing to an unprecedented strain on hospitals as well as widespread death.

“The Alpha variant is in 38 countries and Beta is in 35.”

In addition, WHO says nearly 70% of African countries will not reach the 10% vaccination target for all countries by the end of September at the current pace. 

“Around 3.5 million to 4 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.”

Just 20 million Africans, or 1.5% of the continent’s population, are fully vaccinated so far and just 1.7% of the 3.7 billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa.

According to Reuters reports, U.S. officials and the Gavi vaccine alliance said on Friday nearly 50 African countries are to receive 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the United States.

The first beneficiaries being Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Ethiopia.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced in June that his government will donate 500 million Pfizer doses to low- and lower-middle-income countries. However, it is not clear how many doses will be allocated to Africa.

The African continent has received 82.7 million vaccine doses of which countries have administered 61.3 million doses, according to Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.