Delta variant increases COVID-19 cases and deaths in Africa

Delta variant increases COVID-19 cases and deaths in Africa

Driven by the delta variant, a new wave of COVID-19 is sweeping the African continent where new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing.

South Africa is leading the new wave in Africa, where the number of cases is doubling every three weeks, according to the World Health Organization.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The delta variant, reported in 16 African countries, has become dominant in South Africa, which accounts for more than half of new cases in Africa.

It was detected in 97% of samples sequenced in Uganda and in 79% of samples sequenced in Congo, according to the WHO.

“The rampant spread of more contagious variants is pushing the threat to Africa to a whole new level,” Moeti said in a statement.

“More transmission means more serious illnesses and more deaths, so everyone must act now and step up prevention measures to prevent an emergency from becoming a tragedy.”

Many more vaccinations needed

Less than 2% of the 1.3 billion Africans received even a single dose of the vaccine.

With more than 20,000 new cases reported on Friday, South Africa’s total of 1.9 million cases, including 66,323 deaths, represents more than 30% of the 5.5 million cases reported by the 54 countries in Africa, which have a population of 1.3 billion, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A family walks past a mural promoting COVID-19 vaccination in Duduza Township, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 23. (Themba Hadebe / The Associated Press)

Johannesburg and the surrounding Gauteng province are South Africa’s epicenter with hospitals reaching 91 percent of capacity and 5,500 additional health workers deployed, the health ministry said on Friday.

Staff at Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp, about 170 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg, say they are fighting to deal with the new wave.

“With this new strain from the third wave, I think it’s more aggressive than the second,” said Onthatile Mmusi, a nurse at Tshepong hospital. “We tend to have patients and when they arrive their oxygen levels are already low.”

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