Africa’s COVID-19 deaths surge by 43% in a week

Africa’s COVID-19 deaths surge by 43% in a week

Africa has recorded a 43% week-on-week rise in COVID-19 deaths, as hospital admissions increase rapidly and countries face shortages in oxygen and intensive care beds.

This is according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) which said that deaths also peaked at 6 273 in the week ending on 11 July from 4 384 in the previous week.

“Africa is now less than 1% shy of the weekly peak reached in January when 6 294 deaths were recorded.”

In addition, the WHO said Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia accounted for 83% of the new fatalities recorded in the past week.

The continent’s case fatality rate, which is the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases, currently stands at 2.6% against the global average of 2.2%.

The organisation said the deaths topped six million on 13 July.

“It took around three months to move from four million to five million cases. This COVID-19 surge is the fastest the continent has seen,” said WHO.

According to the organisation, the peak is driven by public fatigue with key health measures and the spread of variants.

To date, the Delta variant has been detected in 21 African countries, the Alpha variant is in 35 countries while the Beta is in 30.

Breaking point

WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said deaths have climbed steeply for the past five weeks.

“This is a clear warning sign that hospitals in the most impacted countries are reaching a breaking point,” she said on Thursday.

Moeti was speaking during a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group.

“Under-resourced health systems in countries are facing dire shortages of the health workers, supplies, equipment and infrastructure needed to provide care to severely ill COVID-19 patients.”

Meanwhile, Moeti said hospital admissions in around 10 countries have increased rapidly and at least six countries are facing shortages of intensive care unit beds, while demand for medical oxygen has spiked.

“It is now estimated to be 50% higher than at the same time in 2020, yet supply has not kept up.”

The number one priority for African countries is boosting oxygen production to give critically ill patients a fighting chance, she said.

“Effective treatment is the last line of defence against COVID-19 and it must not crumble.”

Vaccine supply

The WHO said the rise in cases comes amid inadequate vaccine supplies.

The continent is said to have vaccinated 52 million people since the start of the rollout in March this year, accounting for just 1.6% of the 3.5 billion people vaccinated worldwide.

Meanwhile, only 18 million people in Africa are fully inoculated, representing 1.5% of Africa’s population compared with over 50% in some high-income countries.

“The double barrier of vaccine scarcity and treatment challenges is seriously undermining effective response to the surging pandemic. However, with the expected fresh vaccine shipments and strong preventive measures, we can still turn the tide against the virus,” said Moeti.

She said additional vaccine supplies expected in the coming weeks and months will help scaling up the vaccination rates.

Meanwhile, she said about 190 million extra COVID-19 vaccine doses will be needed to fully vaccinate 10% of Africa’s population by September 2021, with around 750 million more doses required to fully immunise 30% by the end of 2021.–SAnews