Africa faces ‘rising threat’ of a coronavirus third wave: WHO

Coronavirus
Image courtesy of Facebook/African third wave

The United Nations Health Agency warns that in several nations on the continent, coronavirus cases have occurred.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned that the health care systems in Africa “are far from ready” to deal with a renewed increase in coronavirus infections, with nearly stopped delivery of vaccines and incidents in several countries.

“Many African hospitals and clinics are still far from ready to deal with a massive increase in critically ill patients,” Matshidiso Moeti, African Regional Director of WHO, said on Thursday.

“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising,” she added in a video briefing.

According to the WHO, Africa has recorded more than 4.8 million cases and 130 000 fatalities, accounting for 2.9% of global cases and 3.7% of deaths.

According to a WHO survey in May, the essential health care facilities and personnel required to manage severely ill coronavirus patients in many African countries are seriously lacking.

Of the 23 surveyed countries, the majority had less than one intense care unit bed per 100,000 population and only one-third had motorized ventilators.

In comparison, there are almost 25 beds per 100,000 people in nations like Germany and the United States.

“Treatment is the last line of defense against this virus and we cannot afford it to be violated,” said Moeti, urging for better equipment for hospitals and medical professionals.

In recent weeks, there has been an increase in infections on the continent. South Africa, which is officially the African country most afflicted, has tightened health regulations and currently has more than 1.6 million cases and 56,439 deaths.

In Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, the WHO identified last month the “exponential increase” in cases that reflected a “clear deterioration” in the wider region.

DRC Minister of Health Jean-Jacques Mbungani claimed that a new wave of illnesses is taking place.

“Officially, I am announcing the beginning of our country’s third wave of coronavirus pandemic with Kinshasa as its epicenter,” said Mbungani to reporters.

He noted that the low vaccination rate and haphazard compliance with prescribed hygienic practices are among the reasons for the increased occurrence of infection.

In Uganda, meanwhile, the number of cases surged 131% within a week with school outbreaks and an increase in cases among health workers. Angola and Namibia are also experiencing a resurgence.

At the same time, the continent faces a lack of vaccinations, and deliveries in Africa are almost standing, according to the WHO, which expects new deliveries over the next months via the worldwide COVAX plan with an undertaking of 80 million US doses.

According to Our World in Data, only 2 percent of Africans to date have had at least one shot, compared to 11 percent of the world’s population. Six countries, four in Africa: Tanzania, Burundi, Chad, and Eritrea, did not start inoculation.

On Thursday, John Nkengasong, president of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa, once again chastised affluent countries for failing to step up their efforts to provide fairer access to vaccines.

“I’d like to make a moral case to the G7 leaders that our limited supply of vaccines on the continent has definitely a serious boding for us, a serious economic boding for us,” he said during a press conference.

“Perhaps there is a greater moral dread for those who are sitting on excess vaccine doses; after all, they want to be on the right side of history.”

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