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, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
The global health body, in a statement on Thursday, noted that fatalities increased to 6,273 in the week ending on 11 July 2021 from 4384 deaths in the previous week.
“Africa is now less than 1per cent shy of the weekly peak reached in January when 6,294 deaths were recorded. Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia accounted for 83 per cent of the new deaths 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 per cent against the global average of 2.2 per cent.
“COVID-19 cases have risen for eight straight weeks, topping six million on 13 July 2021. Over the past month, Africa recorded an additional one million cases. This is the shortest time it’s taken so far to add one million cases. Comparatively, it took around three months to move from 4 million to 5 million cases. This COVID-19 surge is the fastest the continent has seen,” said WHO.
The organisation noted that the surge is driven by public fatigue with key health measures and an increased spread of variants, adding that the Delta variant, which is currently the most transmissible of all variants, has been detected in 21 African countries, while the Alpha variant is in 35 countries and Beta in 30.
“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. 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, said WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
“The number one priority for African countries is boosting oxygen production to give critically ill patients a fighting chance. Effective treatment is the last line of defence against COVID-19 and it must not crumble”, Moeti said.
WHO identified insufficient quantity, disrepair or poor maintenance of production plants as well as challenges in distribution, scarcity of cylinders, personnel or technical skills are among the barriers to adequate medical oxygen supply in Africa.