YAOUNDE, Cameroon 

Africa is poised to surpass 4 million coronavirus infections later this week since its first confirmed case in February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa said on Thursday.

The WHO said the year-long battle against the deadly virus, which has claimed more than 106,000 lives on the continent, is receiving a crucial boost with the arrival of vaccines through the UN COVAX Facility.

“Every new COVID-19 vaccine delivery to Africa is a step towards equity and ensuring we get our lives and livelihoods back,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said during a virtual news conference.

“But doses will remain limited and it’s critical that frontline health workers and other priority groups are at the front of the queue. Health workers deserve protection because without their pivotal role, efforts against the pandemic can go only so far,” she added.

At least 10 countries in Africa have started vaccinations thanks to COVAX and more than 518,000 doses of COVAX-supplied vaccines have been administered, according to the WHO.

Following a second wave that peaked at much higher numbers than Africa’s first surge, new case numbers declined for five weeks, and then plateaued in the past three weeks at around 70,000 cases per week, said the UN health agency.

There has been a slight uptick in new cases and an upward trend in 12 countries, including Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Cameroon in the past week.

It said reported deaths have dropped by more than 50% in the past 28 days compared to the previous 28 days.

More than 14.6 million doses have been delivered to 22 African countries since Feb. 24 through COVAX — an effort co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the WHO in partnership with UNICEF.

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