YAOUNDE, Cameroon

The rise in coronavirus cases in Africa is “incredibly worrying” as the Delta variant has been reported in 14 countries on the continent, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for Africa said on Thursday.

There have now been more than 5.3 million COVID-19 cases on the African continent, and 138,000 lives lost. “The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder,” Matshidiso Moeti said at a media briefing.

“This is incredibly worrying. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” she said.

The Delta variant which dominated India’s second wave has been reported in 14 countries and has been detected in most samples sequenced in the past month in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, according to Moeti.

“Africa can still blunt the impact of these fast-rising infections, but the window of opportunity is closing. Everyone, everywhere can do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission,” the health official added.

She said Africa urgently needs millions of more vaccines. “We need a sprint, not a saunter, to rapidly protect those facing the biggest risks. COVID-19 cases are outpacing vaccinations, leaving more and more dangerously exposed.”

According to Moeti, 16 countries are waiving quarantine for those with a vaccination certificate. “While it’s important to secure borders and keep COVID-19 from spreading, it must be equitable. Africans must not face more restrictions because they are unable to access vaccines.”

“As WHO, our position remains that making proof of vaccination a pre-requisite for travel may deepen inequities, particularly while the vaccines continue to be in such short supply.”

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