The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa are rapidly rising exacerbating fears that the continent may soon hit its worst week since the start of the pandemic in March last year.

The rising cases are blamed on the more infectious delta variant of the disease that began in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti, almost 202,000 new cases of the illness were reported in the past week, and infections are doubling every three weeks.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before,” Moeti said. “The continent is on the verge of exceeding its worst week ever in this pandemic.”

More than 5.4 million cases have been reported on the continent, with 141,000 deaths and 14 African nations are facing a resurgence of the virus, 12 of which have detected “variants of concern,” including nine with the delta strain, she added.

Africa remains the world’s least vaccinated continent, with only 1.1% of the population fully inoculated, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is hope that the figure will climb in the coming weeks, with the Democratic Republic of Combo expected to received 5 million additional doses of two or three different vaccines according to Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the managing director of the country’s National Institute for Biomedical Research.

However, the government is hoping that the public joins the vaccination drive this time round avoiding a repeat of last month when it had to dispose of most of the 1.7 million AstraZeneca shots it received under the global COVAX scheme for poorer countries.

The vaccines had an expiry date of June 24, and with few people showing up at vaccination centers, they were later sent to other countries including Ghana and Madagascar.

Malawi and South Sudan also destroyed 20,000 and 59,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines received from the African Union, having been unable to administer them by the expiry of April 13.

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