Africa has surpassed 100,000 confirmed deaths from Covid-19 as a second wave of infections overwhelms hospitals.
Praised for its early response to the pandemic, the continent now struggles with a dangerous resurgence and medical oxygen often runs desperately short.
The 54-nation continent of some 1.3 billion people has barely seen the arrival of large-scale supplies of Covid-19 vaccines, but a variant of the virus dominant in South Africa is already posing a challenge to vaccination efforts.
“We are more vulnerable than we thought,” the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said, calling the milestone “remarkably painful.”
Deaths from Covid-19 increased by 40% in Africa in the past month compared to the previous month, the World Health Organization’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, told reporters last week. That’s more than 22,000 people dying in the past four weeks. But there are fears the actual number of deaths is much higher than recorded.
The increase is a “tragic warning that health workers and health systems in many countries in Africa are dangerously overstretched,” she said, and preventing severe cases and hospitalizations is crucial.
But the latest trend shows a slowdown. In the week ending on Sunday, the continent saw a 28% decrease in deaths, the Africa CDC said Thursday.
Africa has reached 100,000 confirmed deaths shortly after marking a year since the first coronavirus infection was confirmed on the continent, in Egypt on Feb. 14, 2020.
In a significant development on Friday, an African Union-created task force said Russia has offered 300 million doses of the country’s Sputnik V vaccine, to be available in May. The AU previously secured 270 million doses from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.