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Africa battles Covid-19 second wave as vaccines expected to delay

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Africa is seeing a marked increase in Covid-19 cases as a second wave of infections sweeps across the continent.

Despite initial success in containing the pandemic, infections have been growing rapidly in December in a number of countries.

Authorities in 47 African countries have registered an average of 73,000 new COVID-19 infections per week since the end of November compared to an average of 30,000 new weekly cases in October, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

At 2.7 million cases, Africa remains the least affected continent but concern is growing.

It's still difficult to know exactly how widespread coronavirus is on the continent, said the WHO, because testing levels in Africa are low compared to other world regions.

Some of the countries where a surge in cases has been significant include Egypt, and South Africa, whose case tally crossed the one million mark over the weekend. 

Health authorities in the country are worried that festive season travel and gatherings could result in more cases. President Cyril Ramaphosa had declared city and provincial-level lockdowns and restrictions on alcohol sales.

South Africa has also confirmed a new variant of the virus which is highly contagious. 

The other countries are Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Nigeria. To slow down the virus' spread, countries are bringing back measures such as curfews and bans on parties.

In Uganda, authorities have blamed election campaigns for driving up infections. Uganda is due to hold a general election on January 14 and opposition presidential candidates have been accused of defying a ban on huge gatherings. 

The country's electoral commission on Saturday announced that campaign rallies would not be allowed in the capital Kampala and 12 other high population centers. 

Vaccines still months away

Most African countries aren't expected to receive Covid-19 vaccine shipments until mid 2021. 

Africa needs to secure at least 1.5 billion vaccine doses needed to reach 60% of thecontinent's 1.3 billion people, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. That would cost between $7 to $10bn.

Uganda, Kenya, Namibia have have made orders through COVAX, a global facility created to ensure equitable access to vaccines for developing countries. 

Morocco and Egypt have already commenced vaccinations. 

Guinea on Thursday became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to start vaccinations using Russia Sputnik V vaccine.