The total number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 2.5 million according to a Reuters tally, with the continent suffering a second wave of infections.
A growing number of African countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ivory Coast have recorded a sharp increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the month.
The rise in infections has been blamed on easing of measures previously employed by governments to halt the spread of the pandemic. Borders have been reopened and travel restrictions lessened to jumpstart ailing economies.
Policy makers warn that people are relaxing their guards and ditching social distancing measures thus spiking infections.
According to a Reuters analysis, Africa has reported about 454,000 new cases in the past 30 days, nearly 18% of its reported total of 2.5 million cases.
South Africa remains the worst-affected African country with 912,477 cases and 24,539 deaths. The country has seen a sharp spike in infections since the start of December.
The South African government said on Friday it had identified a new variant of the coronavirus that is driving a second wave of infections.
Some governments across the region are imposing lockdowns, curfews and restricting gatherings ahead of Christmas celebrations.
Nigeria on Friday ordered schools to shut down indefinitely, banned concerts, carnivals and street parties and ordered some civil servants to work from home in its commercial capital, Lagos.
The Democratic Republic of Congo announced a curfew and other measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces.
As developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom start vaccinating their people, poorer African countries are depending on the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme, which aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.
However, the scheme faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations that are home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say.