Johannesburg, South Africa: Africa is dealing with a severe coronavirus resurgence, with enormous hospital admissions and deaths putting health systems on the verge of collapse as the continent falls behind in the worldwide immunization program.
According to an AFP assessment, Africa remains the world’s least-affected continent after Oceania, with little under 5.3 million reported illnesses and approximately 139,000 deaths among its almost 1.3 billion inhabitants.
So far, African countries have avoided calamities comparable to those experienced by Brazil or India.
The pandemic, however, is resurfacing at an alarming rate in at least 12 nations, with continental cases anticipated to reach a new high in three weeks.
The third wave is gathering up speed, spreading faster, and hitting harder,” said Matshidiso Moeti, Africa head of the World Health Organization, Africa’s latest wave threatens to be the worst yet.”
Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), John Nkengasong, described the third wave as very cruel and devastating on Thursday.
President George Weah of Liberia has warned that the wave is “much more serious than a year ago,” with hospitals in his country overflowing.
Immunisation problems, the introduction of more transmissible virus types, and the Southern Hemisphere’s winter temperatures are all contributing to Africa’s third wave.
According to the WHO, the Delta variety, which was first discovered in India, has been recorded in 14 African nations, with the majority of new cases occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Doctors in South Africa are dealing with an unprecedented flood of patients, accounting for more than 35% of all cases on the continent.
Unlike previous waves, “the hospital system is not coping,” according to Angelique Coetzee, president of the doctors’ group.
Since early April, the average number of new infections each day in South Africa has grown 15-fold, with hospital admissions up 60 percent.
Zambian deaths are ‘unprecedented’
Infection curves are also steep in Namibia and Zambia.
Zambia’s health ministry has recorded a “unprecedented” amount of Covid-19 deaths, putting strain on morgues, while Africa’s CDC has declared the country “overwhelmed.”
With similar trends in Uganda, Health Minister Jane Ruth Acheng blamed highly infectious variants for the new spread, “different from the second wave” with a large number of young people hospitalised.
Uganda is one of the countries with claimed oxygen shortages, while Acheng refuted civil society groups’ claims that a 24.5 million litre per day deficiency exists.
Governments are tightening restrictions once again, with Uganda enacting a new statewide lockdown and 13 Kenyan counties enacting stricter curfews.
Vaccination rates, on the other hand, are struggling to get off the ground.
According to the WHO, only about 1% of Africans are fully vaccinated, the lowest rate in the world, and 90% of African countries will miss a target to inoculate a tenth of their people by September.
“We are running a race behind time, the pandemic is ahead of us. We are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus,” said Africa CDC’s Nkengasong.
What’s going on on the continent is terrifying, he added.
Western governments’ recent offer to provide one billion vaccine doses to developing countries has been widely criticised as being too delayed.
Cases are “outpacing vaccinations”, Moeti said. “Africa urgently needs a million more vaccines. We need a sprint”.
‘Waiting to pass away’
Due to logistical issues and vaccine hesitation, several nations have failed to distribute vaccines from the UN-backed Covax initiative before the expiration date.
In May, Malawi destroyed about 20,000 expired AstraZeneca dosages, while the DRC and South Sudan returned over two million injections to the UN to avoid a repeat of the situation.
The delayed uptake of over 100,000 Chinese-made vaccines that are set to expire in July is causing anxiety in Congo-Brazzaville.
Covax deliveries to Africa have been delayed due to an increase in coronavirus cases in India, AstraZeneca’s main supplier.
Malawi’s stockpiles were depleted last week, just as hundreds of people were ready for their second shot.
Hundreds of angry Zimbabweans demonstrated last month after the primary vaccination centre in Harare ran out of vaccines.
South Africa claims to have enough vaccinations from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech to immunise 67 percent of its 59 million people.
However, there have been difficulties in the implementation, with only 2.2 million people — healthcare workers and those over the age of 60 — receiving a shot thus far.
The lack of vaccines in a place where poverty and inequality are prevalent means many people believe they are just waiting to die, said Deprose Muchena, regional director of Amnesty International.