The delta strain is widespread in Africa, which is experiencing the slowest vaccination process and weakest healthcare systems, fueling fears among epidemiologists and political leaders of an India-style health disaster in the spring, according to the newspaper. The Wall Street Journal.
The rapid spread of the new strain, which first appeared in India and forced governments around the world to tighten restrictions on social and economic activities, shocked health experts in Africa. Some warn that previous infections with other strains of the coronavirus may not protect against the delta strain, leaving sectors of the population that are once again believed to be immune at risk.
In the past days, one of the 30 COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit of Uganda’s largest hospital died due to running out of oxygen supply.
In South Africa, families were struggling to secure one of the few intensive care beds left in the country. On Sunday, the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address imposing new lockdown measures: “We are in the grip of a devastating wave that by all indications looks to be worse than the one that preceded it. The rapid spread is very dangerous.”
The third wave of infections in Africa comes at a perilous moment for the continent. Only 1.1 percent of its 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated, medical supplies are exhausted, doctors are physically and mentally exhausted, beds and oxygen are lacking.
Governments, struggling to recover from the region’s worst recession ever, were reluctant to impose new lockdowns until they saw the rapid spread of the Delta strain.
At least 20 countries are seeing sharp increases in infections. Corona infections on the continent jumped by 31%, while the number of deaths rose by 19%, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency noted that the presence of the strain has so far been recorded in at least 13 out of 54 countries on the continent, although few African countries have the ability to sequence genomes on a large scale.
“It’s scary to see what’s happening across the continent,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Center for Disease Control. “This is the first time we’re starting to see countries reporting that their health system is completely broken.”
On Friday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called on his 42 million people to join a day of prayer across the country, calling for divine intervention after some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures failed to stem the spread of infection.
In the Ugandan capital, Kampala, dozens of coronavirus patients have died due to running out of oxygen supplies, according to health officials and relatives of the victims.
Sandra Apole watched her sister Annette, a 35-year-old mother of two, die along with 30 other patients in the intensive care unit on June 15 at Mulago Hospital in Kampala.
She said: “I saw health workers running up and down, they said more oxygen cylinders were on the way. The patient died next to our bed first, and my sister also died about 30 minutes later. We could hear the wailing of relatives in the corridors.”
Doctors reported that patients in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, were dying in hospital corridors because of depletion of oxygen, with waiting time for beds increased to three days.