The coronavirus has once again besieged the country, causing lockdown last week in Kigali and eight other worst-affected districts.
This is a trend across the continent lamented by the WHO in a brief last Thursday. The spike in infections, which is partly due to the presence of the highly transmissible variant Delta, is observed in 21 African countries
But it is the sharp 43% increase in coronavirus-related deaths in just one week that underscores the threat posed by the virus situation.
6,273 people lost their lives during that fateful week of July 5, mainly due to the lack of intensive care beds and oxygen. Such a peak was last seen in January when an almost equal number – 6,294 – was recorded.
So far, more than 150,000 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported in Africa since the start of the pandemic. This represents 4% of reported deaths worldwide.
If such a high number of deaths were to persist, that percentage could change dramatically. We are therefore closely monitoring the rate of infections, and the trend does not seem good.
COVID-19 cases on the continent have increased for eight consecutive weeks during the current third wave, topping six million last week.
The rate of infections is alarming. A million more cases have been recorded in the past month, marking the shortest time to reach the grim six million mark. Comparatively, it took about three months for cases to drop from four million to five million.
The WHO says the increase is due to public weariness over key health measures and an increased spread of variants of the virus.
In addition to the Delta variant detected in 21 countries, the Alpha and Beta variants have been found in over 30 countries each.
Blockages to curb the spread cannot last forever, while flare-ups are inevitable. Vaccination is the only long-term solution.
Last week, the United States said it expedition 25 million doses of vaccines on the continent. While welcome, the gesture also serves to show how the rollout of immunization in Africa continues to be extremely slow.
About 1.5% of the continent’s population, or 18 million people, are fully immunized, compared to over 50% in some high-income countries.
And, with the many months it has taken to urge rich countries to share their accumulated vaccines, patience is unraveling.
In addition to exasperated African leaders, influential voices on global platforms are increasingly expressing their frustrations in unusually strong terms.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus is particularly acerbic: Last week the motives behind vaccine inequality perpetuating the gap between the haves and have-nots.
“Some countries and regions are actually ordering millions of booster doses before other countries have had supplies to immunize their health workers and the most vulnerable,” he reiterates.
Axel van Trotsenburg, chief operating officer of the World Bank, calls the inequality “unacceptable”, berating the bank’s major donors in a way that has usually not been seen.
“This is a global disease that requires a global solution, which means we have to fight, help all countries and not just a few countries have access to it,” he said. told AFP.
Recent commitments on vaccine sharing, including from the G7, are far from being 11 billion doses needed to achieve worldwide collective immunity.
To date, the COVAX facility has only been able to deliver 4% of the shots administered worldwide, well below its targets. This forced him to lower your goals for this year, from 27 percent coverage of low- and middle-income countries to 23 percent.
The immediate challenge for the continent is to stop the third wave of infections even as it awaits commitments, particularly from the World Bank in Partnership with the African Union to deliver 400 million doses.