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Aggressive third wave of COVID-19 surges across Africa where most are unvaccinated

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By Euronews  with AP
In this Thursday June 17, 2021 file photo medical staff wearing protective equipment attend to patients affected by COVID-19 in Kenya.
In this Thursday June 17, 2021 file photo medical staff wearing protective equipment attend to patients affected by COVID-19 in Kenya.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Brian Inganga/File

A new wave of COVID-19 cases is sweeping across Africa, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant.

Less than 2% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people have received even one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO)'s regional director for Africa.

New cases, hospitalisations and deaths have been increasing as the new variant spreads.

It's so far been reported in 16 African countries and is the dominant variant in South Africa which is leading the new surge.

Case numbers in South Africa have been doubling every three weeks, according to the WHO.

The Delta variant was detected in 97% of samples sequenced in Uganda and in 79% of samples sequenced in Congo, said the WHO.

“The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level,” Moeti said in a statement.

"More transmission means more serious illness and more deaths, so everyone must act now and boost prevention measures to stop an emergency becoming a tragedy.”

With more than 20,000 new cases reported Friday, South Africa's total of 1.9 million cases, including 66,323 deaths, represents more than 30% of the 5.5 million cases reported by Africa's 54 countries, representing 1.3 billion people, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johannesburg and the surrounding Gauteng province are South Africa's epicentre with its hospitals reaching 91% capacity and 5,500 additional health workers deployed, the health department announced Friday.

Staff at Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp, about 170 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg, say they are battling to cope with the new surge.

“With this new strain in the third wave, I think it’s more aggressive than the second one," Onthatile Mmusi, a nurse at Tshepong Hospital told AP. “We tend to get patients and when they come in their oxygen levels are already down.”