COVID-19 surges across Africa, driven by delta variant

2021-07-03 22:09:41
COVID-19 surges across Africa, driven by delta variant

The delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling a new wave of COVID-19 across Africa and other parts of the world, causing a surge in new infections, hospital admissions, and deaths.

The Delta variant is also surging through Asia this week, with record numbers of infections in Australia and South Korea, prompting some countries to tighten curbs and others to hasten vaccination.

The variant, first detected in India in December last year, has spread to about 100 countries and the World Health Organisation warned recently that it could soon become the dominant form of the virus. It is also driving a spike in cases in Japan, casting a pall over this month's Olympic Games.

The United States has also seen a rise in Delta variant infections in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain low, and the White House said on Thursday it would send special assistance to those hot spots. read more

Europe, too, is battling an increase in infections, which the WHO has blamed on crowds at Euro 2020 football stadiums. It has warned that a new wave was inevitable if people did not remain disciplined.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa, told the Associated Press.

South Africa is leading the new surge in Africa, where case numbers are doubling every three weeks, according to the World Health Organization.

The delta variant, reported in 16 African countries, has become dominant in South Africa, which accounts for more than half of Africa’s new cases. It was detected in 97% of samples sequenced in Uganda and in 79% of samples sequenced in Congo, said the WHO.

“The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level,” Moeti said in a statement. "More transmission means more serious illness and more deaths, so everyone must act now and boost prevention measures to stop an emergency becoming a tragedy.”

Less than 2% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people have received even one dose of a vaccine.

With more than 20,000 new cases reported 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 Africa's 54 countries, representing 1.3 billion people, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johannesburg and the surrounding Gauteng province are South Africa's epicenter with its hospitals reaching 91% capacity and 5,500 additional health workers deployed, the health department announced Friday.

Staff at Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) southwest of Johannesburg, say they are battling to cope with the new surge.

“With this new strain in the third wave, I think it’s more aggressive than the second one," Onthatile Mmusi, a nurse at Tshepong Hospital said. “We tend to get patients and when they come in their oxygen levels are already down.”

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