WHO Africa says the continent is in the midst of a full-blown COVID third wave

Five million Africans have contracted the disease, with 136,000 having lost their lives so far.

FILE: Medical staff in personal protective equipment (PPE) prepare to start their rounds in Kenyatta stadium turned into a mass isolation facility for COVID-19 patients on 3 August 2020 at Kenya's eastern town of Machakos. Picture: TONY KARUMBA/AFP

CAPE TOWN - The African continent is in the midst of a full-blown third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO Africa gave an update on the resurgence of coronavirus cases on the continent on Thursday.

Over five million Africans have contracted the disease, with almost 136,000 having lost their lives so far.

"New cases, continentwide are up by nearly 30% in the past week and deaths are up by 15%," said WHO Africa Regional Director, Doctor Matshidiso Moeti.

Moeti said Africa’s vaccine rollout was picking up speed with over five million doses administered in the past five days.

"Unfortunately, 23 countries have used less than half of the doses they have received, including four of the countries experiencing a resurgence. These countries are facing logistical challenges, gaps in operational funding & vaccine hesitancy."

She said after four weeks of consecutive increases in infections, Africa’s third wave was surging upward and accelerating fast, urging countries that were still lagging behind in their vaccination drives to rapidly expand their sites.

"Almost 12 million people are now fully vaccinated, but this is still less than 1% of Africa’s population."

In 22 African countries, cases rose by more than 20% in the week to June 13, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Uganda reporting their highest number of new weekly cases since the pandemic began.

The WHO said that "a lack of adherence to transmission prevention measures has fuelled the new surge that coincides with colder seasonal weather in southern Africa and as more contagious variants spread."

The continent has been hit less hard by the pandemic than most other regions, recording 135,885 deaths from 5,107,939 cases so far.

But the more-transmissible Delta variant, which was first detected in India, has been reported in 14 African countries and the Alpha and Beta variants -- first detected in Britain and South Africa respectively -- have been found in over 25 African countries.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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