Africa Facing 'Extremely Brutal' COVID Wave, Delta Variant Present in 14 Countries

Africa is navigating a severe third wave of COVID-19 and Delta variant outbreaks set to peak higher than all previous waves, the Associated Press reported. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the current wave is "extremely brutal" and overwhelming more and more health centers.

"We are completely lagging behind, we just don't have vaccines," Nkengasong said.

Nkengasong stated the Delta variant, which has been detected in 14 African countries, "may have played a very significant role" in brutal battles against infection currently being fought across the continent. Case numbers have been climbing since early May and will likely outpace past waves by July due to coronavirus variants, lessened adherence to health regulations and more social interaction, according to WHO Africa.

"Africa can still blunt the impact of these fast-rising infections, but the window of opportunity is closing. Everyone everywhere can do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Tunisia Outbreak
Tunisian medical workers clad in PPE (personal protective equipment) are pictured at a first aid department of a hospital in the northwestern town of Beja, on Tuesday, as Tunisia's health authorities cope with a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area. Fethi Belaid/AFP via Getty Images

Africa has more than 5.2 million confirmed virus cases including more than 139,000 deaths, according to the Africa CDC.

Critically, only 1 percent of the continent's 1.3 billion people have been vaccinated, according to WHO and the CDC. Globally, around 2.7 billion vaccine doses have been administered, of which less than 1.5 percent have been given in the continent, according to WHO Africa.

The U.N.-backed COVAX initiative to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, has not met its goals of equal access, said officials.

More than 80 percent of COVAX vaccine supplies have been used by just 18 African countries, with eight running out of stocks.

"Our work in COVAX has been hugely challenged by the vaccine availabilities," Moeti said, adding that WHO is willing to consider all available vaccines and will do everything possible to ensure the vaccines become available at the global level.

"Our objective is really to get the vaccines out there and reduce the inequity that is the situation at present," she said.

She criticized restrictions that may also exacerbate the inequities, arguing that Africans should not also face more travel restrictions because they are unable to access the same vaccines available elsewhere.

"Let's not add injury to injustice," she said. "Vaccine shortages are already prolonging the pain of COVID-19 in Africa."

Morocco Vaccines
A prisoner receives a dose of the AstraZeneca jab against the coronavirus, during a vaccination campaign at the El-Arjate prison near the capital Rabat on May 26. Morocco has vaccinated nearly 4,000 inmates as part of a campaign launched in March to inoculate the incarcerated population against coronavirus, the kingdom's prison authority said. Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images