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'Alarming' third wave hits Africa as vaccination slows

A technician handles samples from truck drivers testing for coronavirus at a laboratory in Busia on the Uganda-Kenya border on May 14, 2020   -  
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BRIAN ONGORO/AFP or licensors -


The third wave of Covid-19 cases is spreading faster in Africa and hitting harder on a continent facing a shortage of vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office warned Thursday.

In Africa, "the third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa.

"With a rapid increase in the number of cases and increasing reports of severe disease, the latest wave threatens to be the worst to date in Africa," she warned at a virtual press conference.

According to WHO, Covid-19 cases have increased for five consecutive weeks since the third wave began on May 3, 2021.

As of June 20 - day 48 of the start of this third wave - Africa had recorded about 474,000 new cases, a 21 percent increase over the first 48 days of the second wave.

"At the current rate of infection, the current outbreak is expected to surpass the previous one by early July," the WHO said.

According to the UN organization, the pandemic is resurfacing in 12 African countries. A combination of factors is fuelling this new wave of infections, including low compliance with public health measures, high social interaction, and the spread of variants.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, respectively, approximately 77% and 97% of diagnosed cases are related to the Delta (Indian) variant.

This variant, first identified in India, has been reported in 14 African countries, WHO added.

The resurgence of Covid-19 in Africa comes as vaccine shortages persist on the continent where only "slightly more than 1% of the African population has been fully vaccinated," according to WHO.

"Vaccine shortages are already prolonging the pain of Covid-19 in Africa," "we need international solidarity" to deal with the pandemic, Dr. Moeti urged.

In many African countries, mistrust remains strong against Covid vaccines.