Coronavirus in Africa: Concern grows over third wave of infections

By Peter Mwai
BBC Reality Check

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image copyrightAFP
image captionFew African countries have the facilities needed to identify new variants

Covid-19 cases and deaths are rising fast in Africa as the continent battles a third wave of infections.

The number of deaths recorded for the past week has risen by more than 40% compared with the previous week, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

New and faster spreading variants such as the highly transmissible Delta variant are appearing in more and more countries.

Less than 2% of the continent has been fully vaccinated.

Where are cases and deaths rising?

New cases have been increasing for eight weeks running and rose by 13% over the past week compared with the previous week, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The countries reporting the highest number of deaths over the week include Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.

Hospital admissions in around 10 countries have increased rapidly and at least six countries are facing shortages of intensive care unit beds.

Demand for medical oxygen is estimated to be 50% higher than at the same time in 2020, yet supply has not kept up.

"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," said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSouth Africa has had the most cases on the continent

The third wave has seen cases rising faster compared with the previous waves.

Over the past month, Africa recorded an additional one million cases, the shortest time ever it has taken to add another million cases.

During the second wave daily cases peaked at 28 cases per one million population while during the ongoing third wave the rate stands at about 33 cases per 1 million population, the Africa CDC says.

"The worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground," says Moeti.

data in detail

Scroll table to see more data

*Deaths per 100,000 people

US 605,665 185.2 33,821,831
Brazil 538,942 257.3 19,262,518
India 412,531 30.5 31,026,829
Mexico 235,740 186.8 2,629,648
Peru 194,845 609.1 2,088,143
Russia 143,657 98.6 5,810,335
UK 128,593 191.5 5,281,098
Italy 127,840 210.9 4,278,319
Colombia 114,833 231.2 4,583,442
France 111,429 171.5 5,833,341
Argentina 100,695 227.0 4,719,952
Germany 91,346 109.9 3,748,379
Iran 86,592 105.9 3,464,055
Spain 81,084 173.7 4,069,162
Poland 75,191 198.3 2,881,151
Indonesia 70,192 26.2 2,726,803
South Africa 65,972 114.2 2,253,240
Ukraine 55,114 124.6 2,315,565
Turkey 50,415 61.2 5,507,455
Romania 34,245 175.6 1,081,467
Chile 34,207 182.6 1,594,496
Czech Republic 30,335 284.4 1,670,583
Hungary 30,013 309.2 808,661
Canada 26,436 71.3 1,429,707
Philippines 26,314 24.7 1,490,665
Belgium 25,208 219.5 1,102,069
Pakistan 22,720 10.7 983,719
Ecuador 21,872 128.0 472,722
Bulgaria 18,163 257.6 422,797
Netherlands 17,790 104.3 1,767,763
Iraq 17,707 46.1 1,466,529
Bolivia 17,375 153.0 459,579
Bangladesh 17,278 10.7 1,071,774
Portugal 17,187 167.6 920,200
Tunisia 17,009 147.1 526,487
Egypt 16,425 16.7 283,490
Japan 14,966 11.8 831,741
Sweden 14,643 146.8 1,093,923
Paraguay 14,120 203.0 442,207
Greece 12,795 121.6 450,512
Slovakia 12,524 229.7 392,000
Switzerland 10,863 127.4 707,357
Austria 10,727 120.6 652,660
Jordan 9,872 99.1 759,686
Guatemala 9,834 57.0 327,755
Bosnia and Herzegovina 9,665 290.8 205,267
Nepal 9,463 33.7 662,570
Morocco 9,418 26.1 549,844
Croatia 8,233 198.1 361,218
Saudi Arabia 8,006 23.8 503,734
Lebanon 7,882 114.9 549,427
Honduras 7,391 77.1 277,974
Serbia 7,078 101.4 718,093
Panama 6,674 159.8 419,829
Malaysia 6,613 21.0 880,782
Israel 6,443 76.9 849,654
Moldova 6,219 153.5 257,766
Afghanistan 5,983 16.1 137,853
Uruguay 5,865 170.0 378,041
Georgia 5,503 137.5 382,734
North Macedonia 5,487 263.4 155,866
Ireland 5,018 104.1 280,784
Azerbaijan 4,990 50.2 337,801
Costa Rica 4,857 97.2 388,298
China 4,848 0.3 104,193
Armenia 4,556 154.3 226,949
Slovenia 4,425 213.0 258,045
Lithuania 4,404 157.2 279,572
Ethiopia 4,350 4.0 277,443
Myanmar 4,346 8.1 212,545
Dominican Republic 3,907 36.8 336,144
Algeria 3,895 9.2 149,906
Kenya 3,746 7.3 191,020
Sri Lanka 3,661 17.2 280,543
Kazakhstan 3,600 19.7 536,089
Palestinian Territories 3,585 73.7 315,504
Oman 3,498 72.4 289,042
Venezuela 3,339 11.6 289,362
Belarus 3,297 34.9 431,112
Libya 3,249 48.6 214,568
Thailand 3,032 4.4 372,215
Zambia 2,991 17.2 182,129
Sudan 2,774 6.6 36,986
Latvia 2,542 131.8 138,041
Denmark 2,540 44.2 303,469
El Salvador 2,477 38.6 82,605
Albania 2,456 85.2 132,629
Zimbabwe 2,418 16.7 78,872
Namibia 2,270 92.7 109,356
Kosovo 2,268 122.9 107,883
Uganda 2,249 5.3 89,080
Kuwait 2,174 52.5 382,084
Kyrgyzstan 2,154 34.2 146,292
Nigeria 2,126 1.1 169,074
South Korea 2,051 4.0 175,046
Syria 1,902 11.2 25,814
United Arab Emirates 1,885 19.6 656,354
Cuba 1,726 15.2 263,086
Montenegro 1,621 258.2 100,567
Bahrain 1,379 87.9 267,619
Yemen 1,366 4.8 6,967
Cameroon 1,324 5.3 80,858
Malawi 1,301 7.2 41,498
Botswana 1,274 56.5 86,133
Estonia 1,271 96.1 131,681
Senegal 1,209 7.6 48,270
Jamaica 1,136 38.7 50,913
Mozambique 1,057 3.6 94,733
Cambodia 1,052 6.5 65,500
DR Congo 984 1.2 45,211
Finland 978 17.7 99,212
Trinidad and Tobago 969 69.7 35,428
Angola 951 3.1 40,530
Madagascar 934 3.6 42,479
Australia 912 3.7 31,628
Luxembourg 819 135.5 72,632
Ghana 806 2.7 98,114
Norway 796 14.9 133,876
Uzbekistan 789 2.4 118,380
Somalia 781 5.2 15,081
Taiwan 759 3.2 15,346
Mongolia 716 22.6 144,492
Eswatini 698 61.4 20,693
Rwanda 616 5.0 51,625
Suriname 602 104.5 23,861
Qatar 599 21.5 223,911
Mali 529 2.8 14,496
Guyana 506 65.0 21,274
Mauritania 503 11.4 22,187
Haiti 487 4.4 19,374
Malta 420 95.6 31,834
Cyprus 383 44.3 88,457
Lesotho 338 16.0 12,153
Belize 332 86.7 13,644
Ivory Coast 319 1.3 48,999
Cape Verde 294 54.1 33,180
Guadeloupe 274 68.5 17,809
Réunion 256 29.0 33,295
Bahamas 256 66.4 13,274
Maldives 215 41.7 75,622
Vietnam 207 0.2 42,288
Niger 194 0.9 5,555
Nicaragua 193 3.0 8,767
Gambia 188 8.2 6,610
Guinea 184 1.5 24,298
Papua New Guinea 179 2.1 17,340
Mayotte 174 67.0 19,451
Chad 174 1.1 4,959
Congo 172 3.3 12,933
Burkina Faso 169 0.9 13,530
French Guiana 163 57.6 28,681
Gabon 162 7.6 25,245
Djibouti 155 16.2 11,622
Liberia 148 3.1 5,306
Comoros 146 17.5 4,002
French Polynesia 144 51.9 19,058
Togo 134 1.7 14,426
Andorra 127 164.9 14,239
Curaçao 126 77.4 12,537
Equatorial Guinea 123 9.4 8,828
South Sudan 117 1.1 10,917
Sierra Leone 113 1.5 6,122
Tajikistan 110 1.2 14,000
Aruba 108 102.0 11,199
Benin 107 0.9 8,244
Martinique 98 26.1 12,807
Central African Republic 98 2.1 7,142
Gibraltar 94 278.8 4,518
San Marino 90 266.4 5,094
Saint Lucia 87 47.8 5,455
Channel Islands 86 50.4 6,383
Seychelles 77 79.3 17,005
Fiji 74 8.4 13,886
Guinea-Bissau 70 3.7 3,998
Liechtenstein 59 155.6 3,061
Barbados 48 16.7 4,230
Antigua and Barbuda 42 43.6 1,267
Sao Tome and Principe 37 17.5 2,400
Singapore 36 0.6 62,852
Saint Martin 34 91.2 2,659
Monaco 33 85.3 2,655
Bermuda 33 52.6 2,525
Eritrea 30 0.9 6,382
Iceland 29 8.6 6,555
Isle of Man 29 34.5 1,907
New Zealand 26 0.5 2,804
Timor-Leste 25 2.0 9,997
Tanzania 21 0.0 509
Turks and Caicos Islands 18 47.8 2,444
Mauritius 18 1.4 1,858
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
St Vincent and the Grenadines 12 10.9 2,258
Burundi 8 0.1 5,764
British Virgin Islands 8 26.9 1,602
Laos 4 0.1 3,187
Saint Kitts and Nevis 3 5.7 544
Brunei 3 0.7 282
Bhutan 2 0.3 2,380
Cayman Islands 2 3.1 620
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Saint Barthelemy 1 10.2 1,005
Faroe Islands 1 2.1 905
Grenada 1 0.9 161
Montserrat 1 20.0 21
Vanuatu 1 0.3 4
Dominica 0 0.0 199
New Caledonia 0 0.0 129
Anguilla 0 0.0 111
Greenland 0 0.0 65
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 63
Vatican 0 0.0 27
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 26
Solomon Islands 0 0.0 20
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 4
Samoa 0 0.0 3
Kiribati 0 0.0 2
Micronesia 0 0.0 1
Palau 0 0.0 0

Please update your browser to see full interactive

This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals for each country.

** The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average. Due to revisions in the number of cases, an average cannot be calculated for this date.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, national public health agencies and UN population data

Figures last updated: 16 July 2021, 09:25 BST

There are 23 countries on the continent that have so far experienced a third wave of infections, with Senegal and Malawi the latest two to be affected.

The WHO says the third wave is driven by a mix of public fatigue, social mixing, ineffective use of public health and social measures, and vaccine inequity, and the spread of new variants.

The continent's average death rate has been at 2.6% for some months now, above the global average of 2.2%.

The global fatality rate has fallen since the start of the pandemic, which in itself would put more African countries above the global average.

Rates are also affected by how much testing is done - a country with low levels of testing will show a higher death rate because many non-fatal Covid cases are not detected.

More importantly, data for deaths should be treated with caution, given the wide variations in how countries record them, and how effective their death registration systems are.

Is the Delta variant to blame?

The WHO believes the spread of the Delta variant (which is more transmissible) has contributed to an increase in both cases and deaths across the continent.

It has been reported in 17 countries so far.

It has been found in most of the samples that were sequenced in some countries experiencing a resurgence - for example DR Congo and in Uganda, where 66% of the cases of severe illness in people younger than 45 years have been attributed to it.

There is also concern that new variants can't easily be tracked because the testing required to identify them isn't widely available.

Another variant of the virus which emerged in South Africa last year, now named Beta, led to high case numbers across southern Africa.

It has been detected in 29 countries, while 32 countries have also reported the presence of a Covid-19 variant first identified in the UK, now named Alpha.

This is more widespread in countries in north, west and central Africa.

As case numbers rise again, several countries - like Tunisia, Rwanda and Uganda - have reintroduced restrictions on public gatherings and non-essential travel.

What is happening with vaccinations?

So far, Africa has lagged behind the rest of the world in Covid-19 vaccines, accounting for just 1.6% of doses administered globally.

The Seychelles has the highest rate of vaccination, having fully vaccinated 69% of its population. Morocco has a quarter of its population fully vaccinated.

Most countries in Africa are part of the international Covax vaccine-sharing scheme but so far, only 19 countries have used more than 80% of Covax-supplied doses.

And in the most populous countries on the continent, vaccination rates are still very low.

In Nigeria, only 1.9 doses of vaccines have been administered per 100 people, in Ethiopia it's 1.8 and in Kenya 2.8 doses.

It's slightly higher in Egypt at 4.5 doses, and in South Africa, it is 7.1.