African nations squirm with rising numbers of COVID cases and impending vaccine shortages

AFRICA – African countries are facing a hard time with a daily surge in COVID cases and only a handful of their populations immunized.  According to the Africa CDC, the continent has recorded a total of 4,928,685 COVID cases from a sample size of over 48.7 million people.

The health agency also reported that Africa has recorded 132, 517 COVID deaths. These figures represent 2.9% of global cases and 3.7% of deaths. However, many experts believe these numbers are a very significant underestimate, and that the death toll is likely to be many times higher.

Yesterday, Kenya recorded 148 new COVID cases and a total of 21 deaths raising the number of total fatalities to 3,308 people. The country, which has capitalized on home-based care for non-critical patients, yesterday recorded 631 recoveries. Health CS, Mutahi Kagwe, said 975,835 people have so far been vaccinated countrywide. Out of this, 13,194 have received their second dose.

South Africa remains the hardest-hit country by the pandemic in Africa, having registered 1,696,564 infections with 56,974 deaths. Yesterday, the country recorded 3,285 cases, the lowest number yet since the beginning of the month. African countries that have thus far recorded over 200,000 infections are South Africa, Morocco with 521,426 cases, Tunisia, 355,732, Ethiopia 273,024 and Egypt with 267,972 cases.

Figures from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that COVID-19 cases in Ethiopia, the second most populated African country, accounted for about 6 percent of Africa’s total. Ethiopia registered 110 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 273,024, according to the country’s Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, four new deaths were reported in the country, bringing the total death toll to 4,213, the ministry said. Egypt (15,352) and Tunisia (12,980) are the only other countries on the continent besides South Africa to have reported more than 10,000 virus-related fatalities.

Namibia’s mortuary capacity is under strain as COVID-19 related deaths surge, Health Minister, Kalumbi Shangula, said on Monday. Namibia is currently battling a third wave of COVID-19 infections. Last week, the country registered 88 deaths. Namibia has so far registered 59,092 confirmed cases and 920 deaths.

Ministry of health figures in Uganda show that as of June 7, the country had reported 53,961 cumulative number of COVID-19 cases since the first case was reported in March last year. Uganda’s Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo on Monday suspended court sessions for 42 days as the country works on scaling down the surge in COVID-19 cases. This follows the lockdown restrictions imposed in the country by the government following a 131% week-on-week rise last week.

In total, Africa has registered 4,445,872 successful recoveries.

According to data by WHO, only 50m doses of Covid vaccines have been received in Africa, of which 31 million doses had been administered in 50 countries with a combined population of more than a billion. top health officials have warned that African countries face a last-ditch battle against a third wave of Covid infections, as the supply of vaccines to the continent “grinds to a halt”.

While many countries outside Africa have now vaccinated their high-priority groups and are able to even consider vaccinating their children, African countries are unable to even follow up with second doses for high-risk groups,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said.

There are widespread fears among senior health officials that the continent could suffer similar or worse devastation to that seen in India, which has a more robust health system than many African countries.

The UN-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing facility that many African countries hoped would ensure equitable access worldwide has failed to provide more than a tiny fraction of the shots needed, as rich nations buy up all available supplies and Indian producers of the favored AstraZeneca vaccine service only local demand.

Burkina Faso, which has a population of 20 million, this week received just 115,000 doses from the COVAX Facility, while Rwanda and Togo each received about 100,000 Pfizer vaccine doses. In Zimbabwe, hundreds of people are being turned away from vaccination centers as the country’s supplies of China’s Sinovac vaccine appear to have run out.

Infections are also surging in Angola, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo where 32 members of parliament and several aides to the president, Félix Tshisekedi, are among those who have died.

The dire situation reported in almost all African countries is weighing down development and economic progression in the continent. Analysis by the US Pew Research Center found that the recession caused by COVID has pushed 131 million people into poverty across the world. About 494 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, out of a total population of 1.14 billion, were expected to be living in poverty before the pandemic in 2020. That total has risen by 40 million, the Pew analysis showed.

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