Ongoing COVID surges in multiple regions keep nations on edge

Vaccine needle going into arm tattoo
Vaccine needle going into arm tattoo

Prefeitura Municipal de Contagem, Elias Ramos / Flickr cc

Despite an overall drop in global COVID-19 cases, some countries continue to battle new surges, including in Africa, Russia, the Americas, and parts of Asia.

Battling rising cases in Africa

Cases in Africa are up for the fifth week a row, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said today in its weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report. Overall, the region's cases increased 36.3% over the previous week.

South Africa reported more than half of last week's cases, and other hot spots include Zambia, Uganda, Namibia, and Kenya. Twenty countries reported rises in cases, with increases of 50% or more in 10 of them.

In a related development, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi today announced new measures to limit gatherings to help the country slow its third COVID surge, according to Reuters. Tshisekedi told reporters last week that hospitals in Kinshasa were overwhelmed.

WHO officials have warned that the African region is at risk due to continued global circulation of the virus and because African countries are falling behind in vaccinating their populations, owing to scarce vaccine supplies. For example, of 2.2 billion doses that have been administered worldwide, less than 1% have been given in Africa.

Hot spots elsewhere, sluggish vaccine uptake

In Russia, the number of daily cases has risen to their highest levels since February, Reuters reported. Moscow, responsible for roughly half of new daily cases, recently imposed new restrictions, and some cities in Primorye region in the country's far east have added hospital beds, expecting to experience another wave of infections.

A Kremlin spokesperson said government officials are disappointed by low demand for the Sputnik V vaccine, which was introduced in December and made available to everyone in Moscow. City officials are planning to offer cars in prize drawings to boost vaccination levels.

Pakistani officials are also worried about low vaccine uptake and are taking a tough stance by blocking people's cell phone service in two provinces and suspending the pay of some government employees who have not been immunized, according to the New York Times.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia has beefed up its distancing measures as the Delta (B1617.2) variant gains a foothold and hospital capacity in locations such as Jakarta come under stress, according to the Washington Post.

And in the Americas, health officials in Chile recently reimposed a lockdown in and around the capital city Santiago due to record COVID activity, according to Deutsche Welle. The country is experiencing a stubborn surge that has been under way since April, despite having Latin America's highest vaccination level. Officials said contributing factors might include lower effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine against the Gamma (P1) variant or that people aren't adhering to restrictions.

More global headlines

  • Indian officials are investigating reports that testing agencies forged as many as 100,000 test results at the Kumbh Mela event in April, a massive Hindu gathering that is thought to have contributed to the country's recent surge, according to the New York Times.

  • Seven countries in the Americas have reported COVID-related mucormycosis (black fungus) cases, according to an epidemiologic alert from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). It included a summary table of 16 patients, all of whom had underlying health conditions. Nine of them died. PAHO urged countries to increase their clinical suspicion for the fungal infection, especially in patients with diabetes, on corticosteroids, or on immunosuppressants.

  • The global total today rose to 176,403,368 cases, and 3,814,946 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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