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Covid-19 infections soar as 15 African countries now grapple with Delta variant

Fifteen African countries have now reported the prevalence of the Delta variant of Covid-19, with overall infections on the continent rising to nearly six-million people, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) DrJohn Nkengasong said on Thursday 8 July.

In a weekly media briefing, Nkengasong said South Africa made up around 37% of the total caseload, with more than two-million cases reported. At the same briefing, MTN group chief executive Ralph Mupita spoke about the “one more push” campaign on which the multinational mobile telecommunications company and Africa CDC will be collaborating. 

‘We shall overcome this’

Responding to a question about soaring infection numbers as South Africa battles with its third wave of the pandemic, Nkengasong said: “We shall overcome this. South Africa has done this before, this is the third time South Africa will be bending the curve nicely, so we shall overcome, and we have to overcome.”

He said as of 9am on Thursday, 5.7-million Covid-19 cases had been reported across Africa. In the last week alone, 254 000 new cases were reported, a 2% average increase from the previous week. Of these new cases, 71% were in southern Africa. The five countries reporting the highest numbers of new cases were South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe, Nkengasong added.

Also in the last week, 505 197 new deaths were reported across the continent, up 43% from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, there has been a 28% increase in new deaths reported. In South Africa, a 39% average increase of new deaths has been reported, while Ethiopia, Egypt and Nigeria have been showing a steady decrease in fatalities.

Of the 23 countries in Africa reporting a third wave of infections, 13 are in the throes of a severe third wave. Nkengasong confirmed that the new Delta variant was largely contributing to the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa, but stressed that the current recommended safety measures of washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing were effective measures against this and all other strains.

To date in Africa, the Delta variant first reported in India has surfaced in Algeria, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

On 1 July, Johnson & Johnson announced that its Covid-19 vaccine showed strong, persistent immune activity against the Delta variant so far. Data shows that the durability of the immune response lasted at least eight months, which is as long as the immune response durability has been evaluated so far.

The real challenge, according to Nkengasong, is the delayed roll-out of vaccines on the African continent. By 5 July 5, 70.4-million vaccine doses had been procured by 52 member states of the African Union. Of these, 53.3-million doses, or 75%, had been consumed. Of the vaccine doses procured by South Africa, 42% have been used. 

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