WHO warns against sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in Africa

The Covid-19 pandemic is gaining ground in many African countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.It reveals that in…

The Covid-19 pandemic is gaining ground in many African countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.It reveals that in the last week alone, eight African countries have seen a sudden increase of more than 30 percent in the number of new cases.


Overall, the continent has seen a 20 percent increase in new cases of Covid-19 over the past two weeks compared with the previous fortnight.


As the risk of a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases increases, African countries urgently need to boost their intensive care capacity to avoid overloading health facilities, against the backdrop of an almost complete halt in vaccine deliveries to the continent.


According to WHO, very limited compliance with preventive measures, increased travel and social interaction, and the onset of winter in southern Africa have increased the risk of a resurgence of Covid-19 in many countries.


South Africa is experiencing a sustained increase and Uganda has seen a 131 percent week-on-week jump in Covid-19 cases, with outbreaks in schools, an increase in cases among health workers and isolation centres and intensive care units filling up. Angola and Namibia are also seeing resurgence in cases.


This new wave comes as shipments of Covid-19 vaccine continue to be scarce, the Un agency said.


Burkina Faso received 115,000 doses this week from the Covax mechanism. Rwanda and Togo have each received about 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine. About 20 African countries have used up to two-thirds of their doses. The Covax mechanism is in discussions with several manufacturers, as well as with countries that have already vaccinated their high-risk groups, to share doses.


“The threat of a third wave is real and growing. Our priority is clear: it is essential to rapidly vaccinate those Africans most at risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19,” WHO Regional Director, Matshidiso Moeti said.


According to him, while many countries outside Africa have now vaccinated their high-risk groups and are even able to consider vaccinating their children, African countries are unable to provide second doses to their vulnerable groups.


“I call on countries that have achieved significant immunisation coverage to make doses available and ensure that vulnerable Africans do not need intensive care,” Moeti told a virtual press conference.


In total, 48.6 million doses have been received and 31.4 million doses have been administered in 50 countries. In Africa, about 2 percent of the population has received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine against 24 percent of the world’s population.


While the continent faces challenges related to vaccine shortages, care for severely ill Covid-19 patients also lags behind other regions of the world. Africa accounts for 2.9 percent of cases worldwide, but for 3.7 percent of deaths.


A WHO survey conducted last May suggested that in many African countries, the essential equipment and health personnel required to manage severely ill Covid-19 patients are far from adequate to meet the needs.


Of the 23 countries that participated in the survey, most have less than one intensive care unit bed per 100,000 population and will need to increase the number of intensive care unit beds by 2,500-3,000 percent to meet the needs during a surge in cases.


In countries that provided information on ventilators, only one-third of ICU beds are equipped with mechanical ventilators.


High-income countries such as Germany, Luxembourg or the United States of America, which have been able to cope with large increases in the number of Covid-19 cases, have more than 25 beds per 100,000 inhabitants.


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