By Vanessa Akoth
Africa is unceasingly reporting an increase in Covid-19 cases as the virus that is causing the disease continues to evolve. The Delta variant, first detected in India, has been identified as the most dominant and contagious form of the virus in Africa, overtaking the Alpha and Beta variants that initially existed.
Data from the new numbers of infection show that in a period of six weeks the cases rose by 25% week-on-week to almost 202,000 in the week ending 27th June, reaching nine tenths of the continent’s previous record of 224,000.
Speaking at a news conference, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the Delta variant could be 30%-60% more transmittable than the others, such as Alpha and Beta variants.
“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before. The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level. More transmissions mean more serious illnesses and more deaths, so everyone must act now and boost prevention measures to stop an emergency becoming a tragedy,” Dr Moeti said.
This is evident as from a test sample collected in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, there was a 97% and 79% detection of Delta variant in the samples respectively.
As at 1st July, more than 5.5M Covid-19 cases were reported in Africa. South Africa accounts for more than half the number of these reported cases being one of the countries that is heavily affected by the deadly Delta variant.
However, she clarified that this is not the precise number of infection rates on the continent since not every infected person gets tested or seeks medical attention. These rates of infections have not only increased the number of hospitalized patients but also increased the number of deaths reported in Africa.
Resurgence of infections on the continent has forced countries most affected to re-introduce stringent containment measures. These include implementation of restriction on movements and gatherings in the hotspot regions. Kenya, for instance, has recently imposed strict measures in 13 Counties in the western parts of the country.
Overall, in order to stymie the progress of Covid-19 infections, the countries are closing down borders, enforcing quarantine, revving up testing, fighting misinformation and suspending activities in schools, market places and places of worship. Other measures being prioritized include social distancing, wearing of masks, hand sanitization, measuring temperatures and vaccinating people where possible.
The grim reality is that due to the unfamous Covid-19 vaccine nationalism that has seen developed countries hoard more vaccines than they need for their populations, Africa has been unable to secure enough doses for its populations of about 1.3 billion people. As a result, a paltry 15 million people (over 1 percent of the African population) have so far been vaccinated.
The downside is that those restrictions and measures, including lockdowns, have greatly and negatively affected people’s livelihoods as most have ended up losing their sources of income, making it hard to survive.
Thus, there is widespread public outcry and enormous pressure on the governments to cushion the most vulnerable members of society from the dire economic consequences of the pandemic that has occasioned devasting rooted mental health challenges to the people.
Thus, an immediate action must be taken now, not tomorrow, to stop the transmissions and prevent the impending tragedy, because more transmissions mean more serious illnesses and more deaths and more economic woes to paraphrase Dr. Moeti’s doomful but timely warning to the international community, in general, and the African heads of state in particular.