Africa Covid-19 cases hit 5.5 million even as vaccination challenges persist

AFRICA – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 5,551,886 as of Friday noon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The Africa CDC said the death toll from the pandemic stands at 143,779 while 4,841,460 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease.

South Africa has recorded the highest COVID-19 cases in Africa, at 1,995,556, while the northern African country Morocco reported 532,150.

Even under these circumstances, South African educators and support staff, some with comorbidities, refuse to take COVID-19 vaccinations in Gauteng province.

This is happening at a time when a study conducted in the country that show Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine works well against the Delta variant that now dominates new infections in South Africa.

All the data that found indicates good immediate and sustained immune response against Delta, and we see surprising durability in the immune response for the single dose J&J right up to eight months,” the study concludes.

South Africa is using the J&J and Pfizer (PFE.N) vaccines in its immunization campaign.

The Gauteng provincial member of the executive council for education Panyaza Lesufi on Friday said while vaccination is voluntary, the WHO encourages people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to be vaccinated.

We are very worried that nearly 10,000 of our personnel in the Gauteng education sector are, for one reason or the other, refusing to be vaccinated against this deadly virus which has wreaked havoc in our schools and communities by taking away our loved ones,” said Lesufi.

Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona encouraged teachers and supporting staff to be vaccinated.

“It needs to be noted that the reluctance to vaccinate is a threat to the government’s efforts to normalize schooling during this disruptive pandemic, and effectively threatens the academic year in its entirety. We, again, urge those who are refusing to vaccinate to come forward and take this vaccination which millions across the world are seeking,” he said.

South Africa is currently vaccinating teachers and supporting staff with the police and army scheduled to receive the jab starting on Monday.

As the Delta variant continued fueling the third wave of the pandemic in South Africa, Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the situation “remains of great concern.”

At a virtual media briefing Friday, the official said the positivity rate had increased to 28.4 percent, and the whole country registered 21,584 new cases in Thursday alone, of whom, over 12,000 were in Gauteng.

Kubayi-Ngubane said the number of patients admitted to hospitals was on the rise.

“We remain very worried about the rise in hospitalizations which is putting a lot of strain in the health facilities in Gauteng.”

Hospitals in the private healthcare sector were operating at 100 percent capacity while “the public health hospitals are edging closer to full capacity,” said the health official, who believed the cases had already “surpassed” the first wave peak and were on course to surpass the peak of the second wave.

The Delta variant which was first recorded in May in South Africa was the most “dominant” variant.

There is now good evidence that Delta is more transmissible than previously circulating viruses and other variants of concern,” said Kubayi-Ngubane. According to her, people who were previously diagnosed with the coronavirus were in danger of being re-infected by the Delta variant.

Another important characteristic of the Delta variant is the fact whereas those who were previously infected Beta were immune from reinfection by both the Alpha and Beta variant, it is not the case with the Delta variant,” she added.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s Ministry of health has reported that the death toll from COVID-19 has crossed the 1,000 mark.

The ministry stated that a total of 1,111 people had succumbed to the disease.

Uganda has thus far recorded 82,082 positive coronavirus cases and 54,158 recoveries.

A total of 861,645 persons have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the country.

This even as the country’s Minister of Health is Friday afternoon expected to address the nation to provide a comprehensive update on the current COVID-19 situation in the country.

World Health Organization on Thursday also stated that the Delta variant was detected in 97% of samples sequenced in Uganda.

66% of severe illness in people younger than 45 years is attributed to the Delta variant in the country.

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