Africa, Europe Facing COVID-19 Surges Driven by Variants

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) African region is facing a serious third wave of COVID-19 cases, driven by variants throughout the continent.

In a virtual briefing with reporters Thursday, WHO Africa Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti said new cases have increased in Africa by an average of 25% for six straight weeks to almost 202,000 in the week ending June 27, with deaths rising by 15% across 38 African countries to nearly 3,000 in the same period.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before,” Moeti said. “The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level.”

Meanwhile, WHO European Regional Director Hans Kluge said Thursday that region’s streak of 10 straight weeks of declining COVID-19 cases has come to end. During his weekly briefing in Copenhagen, he said cases in the region’s 53 countries increased 10% last week.

Kluge attributed the rise to “increased mixing, travel, gatherings and easing of social restrictions,” which he said is taking place amid “a rapidly evolving situation” – the emergence of the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, a situation aggravated by the region’s slow rate of vaccinations.

Elsewhere in Europe, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called the decision by the organizers of the Euro Cup 2020 soccer championships “utterly irresponsible” for holding their tournament during a pandemic.

Seehofer said the decision by the Union of European Football Association’s (UEFA) to hold games in stadiums around Europe with largely unmasked crowds of up to 60,000 people was clearly more about commerce than protection. He said that while some localities put restrictions on the crowds, the organization should have made those decisions itself.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced Thursday that new emergency measures will go into effect on Saturday for the islands of Java and Bali to blunt the rise of new cases in the world’s fourth most-populous country.

The measures, which include tighter restrictions on movement and air travel, a ban on restaurant dining and the closure of non-essential offices, will last through July 20, a period that includes the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Indonesia has been dealing with the worst coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia, posting 24,836 new infections and 504 deaths on Thursday, both of them record-setting numbers. The country has recorded more than 2.1 million coronavirus infections, including 58,491 deaths.

Johns Hopkins University is now reporting 182.2 million confirmed coronavirus infections, including 3.9 million deaths. The United States remains the global leader in both categories with 33.6 million overall cases and 604,718 deaths.

Source: Voice of America