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Top 5 worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Africa

Africa had its worst week of the pandemic — and more devastating outbreaks may come soon

Tshimologo Bonolo poses for a photograph at her house in Soweto, South Africa.
Tshimologo Bonolo, 8, poses for a photograph at her house in Soweto, South Africa, on Saturday, June 26, 2021. She lost her father to COVID-19 in July 2020, and is now looked after by her mother and her grandmother.
Jerome Delay, Associated Press

Africa’s coronavirus crisis has worsened this week with concerning speed. Just this week, COVID-19-related deaths in the region surged by 43%, reported Al Jazeera.

  • Vaccination efforts in Africa have been largely nonexistent, making new variants — like the delta variant — more concerning, reported The New York Times.
  • Health care systems across the continent are overburdened and nearing their “breaking point,” per Al Jazeera.

These conditions could lead to more devastating — and deadlier — outbreaks across the continent, reported The New York Times. Here are the continent’s five worst COVID-19 outbreaks right now.

5. South Africa’s COVID-19 outbreak

For over a week, South Africa has struggled to contain massive violence that left more than 117 people dead and devastating looting that has stolen or destroyed anywhere from $400 million to $1 billion in goods, reported the Deseret News.

  • The recent violence has interrupted COVID-19 containment efforts and vaccination rollouts in the country with the highest caseload in Africa, reported Bloomberg.
  • Experts are predicting a surge of cases following the recent violence, per Al Jazeera.

“Massive looting could be a super-spreader event,” said Tulio de Oliveira, director of South Africa’s KRISP lab that conducts about half of Africa’s genomic sequencing, per Al Jazeera. “But at the same time, lots of people have been staying quietly at home. At the moment, we honestly don’t know what will be the effect on the spread of the virus.”

  • South Africa reported 16,435 new cases on Thursday, the highest number of new cases of any African country, according to World Health Organization data.
  • The country is recording 29 new cases per 100,000 people, according to data from The New York Times.

4. Libya’s COVID-19 outbreak

Outbreaks in Libya have exploded this week — increasing by 570%, according to data from The New York Times. As the delta variant begins circulation in Libya, the country has vaccinated less than 10% of its population, reported the Deseret News.

  • Libya has been reporting a daily average of more than 2,100 new cases, the equivalent of 32 new cases per 100,000 people, according to data from The New York Times.
  • The number of daily new cases in Libya surpassed its previous all-time high on July 9, and daily new cases have only continued to rise every day since, according to data from John Hopkins University.

Unfortunately, the country’s worst and deadliest wave is far from over. Earlier this week, WHO warned that cases in Libya could significantly increase in the coming weeks, per the Deseret News.

3. Namibia’s COVID-19 outbreak

Namibia’s third — and deadliest — wave of outbreaks began mid-June and has accelerated in recent weeks, reported the Deseret News. The government has extended lockdowns to try and curb the rapid spread of the virus.

  • Positivity rates and transmission rates remain incredibly high — both rates averaging 41% for the last two weeks, reported Africa CGTN.
  • The country has reported 48 new cases per 100,000 people, according to data from The New York Times.

A local paramedic, Mohammed Patel, spoke about the struggling health care system last week, reported the Deseret News.

“Delta has caused a whole lot of chaos, a whole lot of patients are suffering, their oxygen levels are dropping drastically daily — there are patients that are suffering and there is no space in hospital, there is no ventilators available,” Patel said. “It’s complete chaos.”

  • Namibia is now reporting more deaths per capita than anywhere else in the world, reported The New York Times.

2. Tunisia’s COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus cases in Tunisia have continued to climb as the north African country struggles under its worst wave of outbreaks yet, reported the Deseret News. The country has called for immediate help from the international community, per France 24.

  • Tunisia has recorded 65 new cases per 100,000 people, making it one of the worst hot spots in the world, according to data from The New York Times.

Last week, a Tunisian health ministry spokesperson, Nisaf Ben Alaya, sounded the alarm about the health care system. “We are in a catastrophic situation. The health system collapsed. We are struggling to provide oxygen. … Doctors are suffering from unprecedented fatigue,” reported the Deseret News.

  • This week, the health care system has deteriorated even further with increasing demand, reported France 24.
  • Intensive care beds are 90% full, and oxygen beds are 90% full, reported CNN.

Tunisia — tied with Namibia — is reporting more deaths per capita than anywhere else in the world, reported The New York Times.

1. Botswana’s COVID-19 outbreak

This week, the southern African country of Botswana emerged as one of the world’s worst hot spots for coronavirus, according to data from The New York Times. The country saw a 127% increase in cases over the last week.

  • Botswana is now recording 67 new cases per 100,000 people, making it one of the top five worst hot spots worldwide, per New York Times data.
  • Thursday, Botswana recorded 5,980 new cases, a new record for the country, according to WHO data.

At the same time, the country ran out of vaccines, per Reuters. At this point, less than 4.6% of the population has been vaccinated, making conditions incredibly dire.