The World Health Organization said in a statement new coronavirus variants that are highly contagious are “fueling Africa’s second wave,” and the variant first identified in South Africa “is predominant and powering record case numbers in South Africa and the sub-region.”
According to the WHO, the B.1.351 strain first found in South Africa has now been detected in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, the French Indian Ocean region of Mayotte, Zambia and 24 other non-African nations. Between Dec. 29 and Monday, the continent recorded 50% more Covid cases than in the previous 4-week period. Coronavirus deaths are also on the rise, roughly doubling over that same period.
The agency is working with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to set up laboratories to conduct surveillance efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. The WHO said each country should send at least 20 samples to the labs, which will “help map the fast-evolving situation and best target responses at all levels.”