Coronavirus in Africa: Concern grows over third wave of infections

By Peter Mwai
BBC Reality Check

Published
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image source, AFP
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 source, AFP
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 670,443 205.0 41,888,298
Brazil 590,752 282.0 21,239,783
India 445,133 32.9 33,478,419
Mexico 271,503 215.2 3,569,677
Peru 199,066 622.3 2,167,008
Russia 194,671 133.6 7,170,069
Indonesia 140,468 52.5 4,190,763
UK 135,203 201.4 7,429,746
Italy 130,310 214.9 4,636,111
Colombia 125,895 253.5 4,941,064
Iran 117,182 143.3 5,424,835
France 116,039 178.5 6,955,333
Argentina 114,428 257.9 5,239,232
Germany 92,977 111.9 4,149,832
South Africa 86,174 149.1 2,882,630
Spain 85,783 183.7 4,929,546
Poland 75,488 199.1 2,897,935
Turkey 61,574 74.8 6,847,229
Ukraine 58,466 132.1 2,455,505
Chile 37,359 199.5 1,647,469
Philippines 36,788 34.5 2,366,749
Romania 35,514 182.1 1,148,710
Ecuador 32,661 191.2 507,003
Czech Republic 30,431 285.3 1,686,364
Hungary 30,123 310.3 817,159
Canada 27,445 74.0 1,581,003
Pakistan 27,246 12.8 1,226,008
Bangladesh 27,225 16.9 1,542,683
Belgium 25,497 222.1 1,219,814
Tunisia 24,490 211.8 699,928
Malaysia 23,443 74.4 2,097,830
Iraq 21,822 56.8 1,975,220
Bulgaria 20,028 284.0 482,186
Bolivia 18,659 164.4 497,100
Netherlands 18,132 106.3 1,986,887
Portugal 17,907 174.6 1,062,048
Japan 17,225 13.5 1,678,296
Vietnam 17,090 17.9 687,063
Myanmar 17,073 31.8 446,573
Egypt 16,970 17.2 296,929
Paraguay 16,126 231.8 459,622
Thailand 15,363 22.1 1,476,477
Kazakhstan 15,031 82.0 936,954
Sweden 14,775 148.2 1,144,982
Greece 14,466 137.5 630,784
Morocco 13,910 38.6 919,681
Guatemala 13,040 75.6 529,422
Slovakia 12,569 230.5 402,808
Sri Lanka 12,125 57.1 504,491
Nepal 11,040 39.3 784,566
Switzerland 11,000 129.0 823,078
Austria 10,895 122.5 724,035
Jordan 10,616 106.5 813,601
Bosnia and Herzegovina 10,203 307.0 225,857
Honduras 9,491 99.0 357,654
Saudi Arabia 8,651 25.7 546,411
Georgia 8,575 214.2 595,926
Croatia 8,500 204.5 391,984
Lebanon 8,236 120.1 618,278
Serbia 7,770 111.3 865,686
Israel 7,541 90.0 1,231,660
Afghanistan 7,186 19.3 154,487
Panama 7,172 171.7 464,288
Cuba 6,796 59.9 801,367
Moldova 6,595 162.8 281,700
North Macedonia 6,460 310.1 186,914
Azerbaijan 6,305 63.4 472,719
Uruguay 6,048 175.3 387,627
Costa Rica 5,949 119.0 505,163
Algeria 5,694 13.5 201,600
Ireland 5,179 107.5 375,367
Armenia 5,131 173.8 253,600
Ethiopia 5,130 4.7 332,961
Kenya 4,989 9.7 246,530
China 4,849 0.3 107,961
Lithuania 4,810 171.7 316,695
Zimbabwe 4,567 31.6 127,938
Libya 4,501 67.4 330,945
Slovenia 4,498 216.5 283,479
Venezuela 4,301 14.9 355,061
Oman 4,093 84.8 303,423
Dominican Republic 4,028 37.9 355,150
Belarus 4,004 42.4 516,428
Palestinian Territories 3,919 80.6 384,390
Zambia 3,638 21.0 208,469
Namibia 3,469 141.7 126,811
Uganda 3,128 7.3 122,212
El Salvador 3,102 48.3 99,701
Kosovo 2,899 157.1 159,107
Sudan 2,878 6.9 37,995
Nigeria 2,655 1.4 201,798
Latvia 2,640 136.9 150,560
Denmark 2,628 45.7 354,645
Kyrgyzstan 2,590 41.1 177,780
Albania 2,580 89.5 162,953
Kuwait 2,439 59.0 411,180
South Korea 2,409 4.7 287,536
Botswana 2,343 103.9 172,252
Malawi 2,261 12.5 61,363
Syria 2,127 12.6 30,709
Cambodia 2,123 13.1 104,716
United Arab Emirates 2,075 21.5 732,690
Mozambique 1,903 6.5 150,018
Montenegro 1,849 294.5 126,259
Senegal 1,845 11.6 73,645
Jamaica 1,791 61.0 79,673
Yemen 1,643 5.8 8,667
Trinidad and Tobago 1,416 101.9 48,523
Bahrain 1,388 88.4 274,264
Angola 1,388 4.5 52,307
Cameroon 1,368 5.4 85,414
Estonia 1,326 100.2 149,776
Rwanda 1,210 9.8 95,257
Eswatini 1,195 105.2 45,380
Uzbekistan 1,192 3.7 168,938
Australia 1,167 4.7 87,128
Ghana 1,121 3.8 125,261
Mongolia 1,119 35.3 277,997
DR Congo 1,068 1.3 56,387
Somalia 1,063 7.1 19,004
Finland 1,057 19.1 136,257
Madagascar 958 3.6 42,898
Norway 841 15.8 182,239
Taiwan 840 3.5 16,141
Luxembourg 834 138.0 77,189
Suriname 803 139.4 36,746
Mauritania 766 17.4 35,462
Guyana 725 93.1 29,553
Guadeloupe 695 173.8 51,485
Qatar 604 21.7 235,487
Haiti 596 5.4 21,330
French Polynesia 593 213.6 40,178
Martinique 585 155.7 40,079
Ivory Coast 566 2.3 59,020
Fiji 566 64.1 49,959
Mali 545 2.9 15,068
Cyprus 534 61.8 116,494
Bahamas 504 130.7 20,030
Malta 453 103.1 36,972
Lesotho 403 19.1 14,395
Belize 389 101.5 18,532
Guinea 370 3.0 30,136
Réunion 358 40.6 52,643
Gambia 332 14.6 9,888
Cape Verde 330 60.7 37,108
Liberia 283 5.9 5,904
French Guiana 232 82.0 38,021
Maldives 229 44.4 83,576
Togo 213 2.7 24,599
Papua New Guinea 204 2.4 18,542
Nicaragua 202 3.1 13,025
Niger 201 0.9 5,957
Congo 183 3.5 13,701
Mayotte 176 67.8 20,107
Gabon 175 8.3 27,643
Chad 174 1.1 5,029
Burkina Faso 172 0.9 14,041
Djibouti 159 16.6 12,040
Curaçao 158 97.1 16,056
Aruba 158 149.3 15,249
Saint Lucia 150 82.5 10,520
Comoros 147 17.7 4,106
Benin 146 1.3 21,450
Equatorial Guinea 137 10.5 11,063
Andorra 130 168.8 15,124
Guinea-Bissau 130 6.9 6,080
Tajikistan 125 1.4 17,484
South Sudan 121 1.1 11,814
Sierra Leone 121 1.6 6,392
Seychelles 106 109.2 20,593
Timor-Leste 104 8.2 19,033
Central African Republic 100 2.1 11,309
Channel Islands 97 56.9 11,269
Gibraltar 97 287.7 5,477
San Marino 90 266.4 5,412
Singapore 60 1.0 77,804
Liechtenstein 60 158.2 3,405
Saint Martin 59 158.3 4,091
Barbados 58 20.2 6,527
Antigua and Barbuda 55 57.1 2,603
Mauritius 50 3.9 14,243
Grenada 50 44.9 3,841
Tanzania 50 0.1 1,367
Sao Tome and Principe 43 20.4 3,043
Bermuda 42 66.9 4,477
Eritrea 40 1.2 6,671
Burundi 38 0.3 14,189
Isle of Man 38 45.2 7,166
British Virgin Islands 37 124.2 2,642
Iceland 33 9.8 11,404
Monaco 33 85.3 3,290
New Zealand 27 0.6 4,083
Brunei 26 6.1 5,047
New Caledonia 22 7.9 3,531
Turks and Caicos Islands 22 58.4 2,805
Laos 16 0.2 19,185
St Vincent and the Grenadines 14 12.7 2,830
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Saint Kitts and Nevis 9 17.2 1,632
Dominica 8 11.2 2,758
Bhutan 3 0.4 2,597
Saint Barthelemy 2 20.4 1,613
Faroe Islands 2 4.1 1,067
Cayman Islands 2 3.1 774
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Montserrat 1 20.0 33
Vanuatu 1 0.3 4
Greenland 0 0.0 464
Anguilla 0 0.0 331
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 67
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 31
Vatican 0 0.0 27
Solomon Islands 0 0.0 20
Palau 0 0.0 5
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 4
Samoa 0 0.0 3
Kiribati 0 0.0 2
Micronesia 0 0.0 1

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: 20 September 2021, 09:28 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.