Rampant and community level transmission of new COVID-19 variants is behind a 25 percent weekly spike in Africa’s total caseload, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said the continent is in the middle of a more virulent third wave, fuelled by new and highly contagious strains of the novel coronavirus.
“The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level,” Moeti said in a statement.
According to WHO, COVID-19 caseload in Africa rose by 25 percent for six consecutive weeks until June 27, while deaths rose by 15 percent across 38 countries in the same period.
WHO said the Delta variant has been reported in 16 African countries, including nine that are experiencing surging infections.
Moeti said that the Delta variant, which is 30 to 60 percent more contagious than other variants, is dominant in South Africa, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are among new coronavirus hotspots in the continent.
She said that Alpha and Beta variants had been reported in 32 and 27 African countries respectively.
Moeti said that WHO has provided technical support to boost the capacity of African countries to conduct genome sequencing on the new variants adding that speedy roll-out of vaccines is key to suppressing emergence of mutations.
She said that besides vaccination, strict adherence to public health measures, heightened surveillance and revamping of genetic mapping infrastructure will be required to curb the spread of new variants.
Moeti said WHO aims to boost genetic sequencing of new variants by eight to ten times during the next six months at five modern laboratories spread across 14 southern African countries. Enditem