Africa has recorded a 43 per cent increase in COVID-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.
The who also said that hospital admissions have increased rapidly in the past weeks with many countries in the continent facing shortages of oxygen and intensive care beds.
According to the global health body, COVID-19 fatalities increased to 6,273 in the week ending on 11 July 2021 from 4,384 deaths in the previous week.
Africa is now less than one per cent shy of the weekly peak reached in January when 6,294 deaths were recorded, WHO said.
The WHO disclosed this in a press statement it released on Thursday from its Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, noting that Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia accounted for 83 per cent of the new deaths recorded in the past week.
The agency said that the new surge is driven by public fatigue with key preventive health measures and an increased spread of variants.
“The continent’s case fatality rate, which is the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases, currently stands at 2.6 per cent against the global average of 2.2 per cent.
“COVID-19 cases have risen for eight straight weeks, topping six million on 13 July 2021.
“Over the past month, Africa recorded an additional one million cases. This is the shortest time it’s taken so far to add one million cases. “Comparatively, it took around three months to move from four million to five million cases. This COVID-19 surge is the fastest the continent has seen.
“The surge is driven by public fatigue with key health measures and an increased spread of variants.
“To date, the Delta variant, which is currently the most transmissible of all variants, has been detected in 21 African countries, while the Alpha variant is in 35 countries and Beta in 30,” WHO said.
Speaking during a virtual press conference on Thursday, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said deaths have climbed steeply for the past five weeks.
“This is a clear warning sign that hospitals in the most impacted countries are reaching a breaking point. Under-resourced health systems in countries are facing dire shortages of the health workers, supplies, equipment and infrastructure needed to provide care to severely ill COVID-19 patients,” she said.
WHO added that hospital admissions in around 10 countries have increased rapidly, adding that at least six countries are facing shortages of intensive care unit beds.
The demand for medical oxygen, WHO said, has also spiked and is now estimated to be 50 per cent higher than at the same time in 2020.
“A rapid WHO assessment of six countries facing a resurgence found that just 27 percent of the medical oxygen needed is produced,” it said.
Moeti noted that the number one priority for African countries is boosting oxygen production to give critically ill patients a fighting chance, noting that effective treatment is the last line of defence against COVID-19.
In a WHO survey to which 30 African countries responded, only 18 countries had included corticosteroids in their national treatment guidelines, as recommended by WHO. Nine countries are including medications that are not recommended in treating COVID-19, such as hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir.
The UN agency said it is working with countries to improve COVID-19 treatment and critical care capacities by providing guidance on clinical management and support to update protocols and train health workers.