Africa, Europe feel impact of COVID-19 Delta variant spread


In updates today from two of the World Health Organization (WHO) regional offices, African officials said the speed and scale of the third wave of COVID-19 is something they haven’t seen before, while European officials warned that conditions are ripe for another wave in the months ahead.

Africa cases doubling every 3 weeks

Cases in Africa rose 25% last week, led by faster spreading variants, putting illness levels almost at the peak of the second surge. Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, the WHO’s African regional office director, said numbers are doubling every 3 weeks. She added that the Delta (B1617.2) variant has been reported in 16 countries, including 9 that are experiencing surges.

In South Africa, which is reporting half of the region’s cases, the Delta variant is dominant, and in Uganda, it made up 97% of sequences samples. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Delta accounted for 79% of sequenced samples.

Deaths in Africa also rose last week, by 15% compared to the previous week. Moeti said two-thirds of severe illnesses in people younger than 45 were due to the Delta variant. And with hospitalizations rising, Moeti said officials estimate that the demand for oxygen is 50% greater than the peak of the first wave.

Against the backdrop of a dramatic surge, vaccine supplies have dried up, and only 1.2% of the population is fully vaccinated, she said. “We are grateful for the pledges made by our international partners, but we need urgent action on allocations. Africa must not be left languishing in the throes of its worst wave yet.”