The World Health Organisation (WHO) says while an 83% surge in COVID-19 cases during the past week in Africa, driven by the Delta and Omicron variants, is causing fewer deaths than previous spike, more waves could be on the way, due to the continent’s slow vaccine rollout.
The WHO’s updated forecasts and new pandemic assessment warn that Africa may not reach 70% vaccine coverage until August 2024.
With the total number of recorded cases during the pandemic standing at 8.9 million, Africa recorded more than 196,000 new cases last week, up from around 107,000 in the previous week.
The WHO has said that the number of new cases is currently doubling every five days, the fastest rate this year.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said that new variants could regularly emerge to spark new outbreaks globally.
“We are cautiously optimistic that deaths and severe illness will remain low in the current wave, but slow vaccine rollout in Africa means both will be much higher than they should be.”
Dr. Moeti has also raised the alarm over the impact of travel bans on vaccine programmes. According to data, globally, there have been more than 2,700 Omicron cases reported in 59 countries, including 11 African countries that account for about 33 per cent of the total cases.
“Blanket travel bans have little impact on the course of an epidemic but have a massive socioeconomic effect.” Moeti. “Coming after two years of COVID-19, these new travel restrictions are jeopardizing the health of millions of Africans.”
Even with Africa’s share steadily dropping, and South Africa no longer leading the world in Omicron infections, 70 countries are still imposing travel bans mainly targeting African countries.
Currently in its fourth wave, Africa counted a little over 3,000 deaths reported during the first three weeks.