What you need to know:
- On Wednesday, rights watchdog Amnesty International said southern Africa was experiencing a deadly wave and called on leaders and donors to intervene.
More than 20 countries in Africa are reporting a surge of Covid-19 cases, amid a third wave of infections and new variants of the coronavirus, according to data collated from government records this month.
Although the continent’s recovery rate remains strong - 4.6 million of the 5.2 million cases - it emerged this week that the number of new infections could be higher. Already, authorities across Africa have started re-imposing restrictions earlier lifted, indicating the severity of infections.
In Kenya, authorities imposed restrictions on a number of counties in the Lake region after they reported an abrupt rise in cases in mid-June.
The imposition came just a month after a no-entry ban was lifted for the capital, Nairobi, where cases had risen earlier.
The new infections have seen the country maintain an infection rate of about 10 percent, with the total number of confirmed infections exceeding 178,000 by Thursday, among them 122,346 recoveries.
In neighbouring Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni on June 19 shut down schools, closed non-food markets and restricted movement between districts after reporting the worst death rate in the country since Covid-19 emerged last year in March.
The restrictions are supposed to remain for at least seven weeks, according to the timelines announced by the Ugandan leader.
Uganda had managed to keep cases lower for most of the past year, but an Indian variant responsible for new cases saw the country report more than 20,000 cases in three weeks, and about 60 deaths.
More than 68,700 people have been infected so far, with 584 of them dying from the virus, official figures show.
"Deadliest wave yet"
On Wednesday, rights watchdog Amnesty International said southern Africa was experiencing a deadly wave and called on leaders and donors to intervene.
“A number of countries across Southern Africa, including Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, are currently in the midst of what could be the deadliest wave yet”, it said, adding the lack of vaccines in a region with high levels of poverty and inequality means many people feel they are just waiting to die.
In South Africa, the worst affected country in the Sub-Sahara, authorities reported 17, 493 new infections on Wednesday, surpassing numbers reported the previous day by 6,400, most of them in the metropolis in Gauteng Province.
The country had reported such a massive figure in January, but it was still lower - 13,880.
These figures were announced more than a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a third wave in the country, banning alcohol sale, reintroducing a curfew and restricting public gatherings.
South Africa had aimed to vaccinate at least 40 million adults by end of the year but the inoculation programme faced hitches after the initial rollout of the AstraZeneca failed to deal with a local variant detected in March, as the continent in general struggled to procure enough doses.
In the DR Congo, President Felix Tshisekedi imposed new restrictions after a sudden rise in Covid-19 cases.
He banned public gatherings and ordered compulsory wearing of masks. DRC has faced hesitancy towards the vaccine and the country recently donated its doses to Kenya to ensure their use before expiry.
The country has reported more than 36,000 cases, including 866 deaths and 27,000 recoveries. After the numbers went down late last year, the government reopened its borders and resumed most programmes.
But the public dropped their guard as seen in low mask-wearing and sanitisation.
On Friday, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi admitted his country had also entered a third wave, criticising the public for not following health guidelines. Maputo has also reported cases of the new Delta Variant in Tete Province.
President Nyusi spoke as the country marked 46 years of independence, saying he expected more cases due to the infectious nature of the new variant.
“We are on the verge of a third wave that will be much more serious,” the President said.
“There is a need to delay and mitigate the third wave. Effective Saturday, Mozambique will re-impose a 10pm to 4am curfew, public beaches will be shut and restaurants allowed to operate only until 8pm, while public theatres will only admit a maximum of 40 people at a time. Churches and other worship centres will be directed to hold services outdoors and limit the number of attendees."
As at Thursday, Mozambique had recorded 73,652 Covid-19 cases, including 70,352 recoveries and 863 deaths.
In Sierra Leone, the death of a woman, reportedly a day after she took the Covid-19 jab, worsened vaccine hesitancy.
Officials promised to investigate the matter but the country confirmed detecting the Delta variant just after announcing the emergence of a third wave.
Sierra Leone’s National Covid-19 Emergency Response Center (NaCOVERC) said the variant was detected after the testing of samples from two female patients.
“This calls for extra vigilance,” NaCOVRC spokesman Solomon Jamiru said in a statement which reiterated calls for the public to adhere to anti-virus measures and get vaccinated.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as Health and Child Care minister, said this week that the rising cases made it necessary for the southern African country to step up its Covid-19 vaccination programme.
The reopening of schools, which was set for June 28, has been delayed by two weeks after a surge in cases.
The country launched a mass vaccination programme in February after receiving vaccine donations from China, India and Russia, but some centres immediately ran out of stock. This week, officials said another batch of 2.5 million doses was due to arrive from Beijing.
As of June 23, the country had administered a total of 1,146,378 vaccine doses, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The country has reported a surge in new cases, reaching 44,306 by Thursday, including 1,709 deaths.
Angola has reported some success in vaccination, having give at least one million doses by Thursday, but it has also reported 38,091 cases, including 881 deaths, signaling that the danger still lurks.
Neighbouring Botswana became one of the few countries in Africa to use the Sinovac vaccine from China.
It received 200,000 doses of the vaccine but penetration is still low.
The country has reported 1,095 deaths out of the 67,492 cases it has recorded.
Namibia, another country using the Chinese vaccine known as Sinopharm as well as AstraZeneca says it has vaccinated about 121,000 people, and expects more doses in a week’s time.
However, officials said the country's death toll of 1,305 by Friday signals a continuous lack of adherence to public health guidelines.
The WHO has predicted that the third wave of Covid-19 infections currently gripping Southern Africa will likely be the deadliest yet.
Countries including South Africa, Namibia and Zambia have been reporting their highest ever rates of new infections in the past few weeks, with South Africa currently averaging 10,000 new cases every day.
Reporting by Aggrey Mutambo, Patrick Ilunga, Kemo Cham, Peter Dube, Arnaldo Vieira and Kitsepile Nyathi