The World Health Organization has revealed that Covid-19 fatalities driven by the lack of intensive-care beds and oxygen in Africa have now reached a new 43% high in a space of one week.
Coronavirus-linked deaths in the WHO’s African region, which includes North Africa, rose to 6,273 in the week of July 5-11, compared with 4,384 in the previous week.
“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,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa told a virtual news conference.
“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,” she said, speaking from the Congo capital of Brazzaville.
The UN health body added that the rise in deaths paralleled a chronic shortage of vaccines, a spread in the more contagious Delta variant, which was now being detected in 21 African countries, along with public fatigue with prevention measures.
Meanwhile, the WHO warned that “more dangerous” variants of COVID-19 could tear across the world as global infections soared to half a million daily, largely driven by the virulent Delta strain.
“The pandemic is nowhere near finished,” the WHO’s emergency committee said in a statement.
It highlighted “the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control”.
Africa has officially recorded more than six million cases of COVID-19, a figure that is far lower than on other continents but one that experts said is likely to be a big underestimate.