EXPLAINER | How African countries with highest Covid-19 death rates are dealing with the pandemic

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  • Only five countries account for 83 percent of new deaths recorded in Africa.
  • Several countries have reintroduced strict lockdowns, but these are struggling.
  • Countries are trying to step up their vaccine rollouts, but are hampered by slow delivery.

Africa is experiencing a record surge of Covid-19 cases, with deaths now just one percent shy of the previous peak in January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. With infections showing no sign of slowing down, this peak is expected to be breached.

Only five countries account for 83 percent of new deaths recorded in the last week. South Africa is highest among these, but statistics from the Africa Centres for Disease Control show a sharp increase in cases. Here's a look at how the Covid-19 surge is affecting the other four countries devastated by the pandemic.

Tunisia

Cases: 546 233

Deaths: 17 527

Over the weekend, Tunisia's ministry of defence delivered 35 oxygen cylinders to hospitals around the country. That was not enough to solve the dire oxygen shortage Tunisia is experiencing and on Monday, a military aircraft flew to the French city of Marseille to fill 130 oxygen tanks, news agency Tunis Afrique Presse reported.

READ | These five countries account for more than 80% of Africa's almost record Covid-19 infections

As Covid-19 cases surge to 4 629 per 100 000 people, cities around the country are struggling to cope, reaching record death tolls in 24 hours. In Gafsa, in the southwest, the state has erected a 50-bed field hospital inside an indoor stadium, while the government of Qatar donated a 200-bed field hospital in the capital Tunis.

coronavirus
Health workers at a hospital in quarantined Kayravan province of Tunis, Tunisia.

Arab countries have come to Tunisia's aid, with Saudi Arabia pledging one million vaccine doses, and Morocco, Turkey, and neighbouring Algeria along with Egypt and Morocco all sending supplies.

Uganda

Cases: 90 391

Deaths: 2 353

In Uganda, the Delta variant has not only driven record infections, it is also believed to be behind the increased incidents of illness in young people, the WHO said. While Uganda's fatalities are much lower than other countries struggling with Covid-19 surges, the country's health system is already buckling. This is largely why Uganda has instituted one of the strictest lockdowns on the continent.

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Uganda is currently in a 42-day lockdown, which includes a curfew from 21:00 to 05:30 and gatherings limited to 20 people. Buses may not travel outside districts, and cars may not have more than three people in them. Businesses that are allowed to operate must do so under strict rules. The rules are strictly enforced by Ugandan police, who have previously been accused of using regulations to enact human rights abuses.

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Tunisian health workers in a hospital in quarantined Kayravan province.

As infections continue to rise, the lockdown has also laid bare the country's inequality. Vendors, unable to return home, are forced to sleep in the market, according to a report by agencies. They also have to contend with economic uncertainty, with little support for the informal economy.

Namibia

Cases: 112 160

Deaths: 2 506

Windhoek's main cemetery is running out of burial space. The sparsely populated country is experiencing such a rise in deaths, the capital's main cemetery, Pionierspark will run out of space by 2024. According to a report in The Namibia newspaper, gravediggers find themselves digging new graves right next to ongoing funerals, in a desperate attempt to keep up with the demand.

READ | Covid-19: SA in line to benefit as US lays out plan to share 55 million vaccine doses globally

The Namibian health ministry has ramped up its vaccination drive, citing fatigue with current lockdown regulations. The surge in infections has encouraged the population to get vaccinated, but the country's vaccine drive was hampered by slow delivery of vaccines. In some cases, the health ministry was forced to close vaccination sites where doses had run out. Over the weekend though, 250 000 Sinopharm doses arrived. It's a boon in a country where just over 31 800 people, or 1.27 percent of the population, are fully vaccinated.

KAMPALA, UGANDA - MARCH 10: A healthcare professio
A healthcare professional is vaccinated against Covid-19 in Kampala, Uganda.

Namibia is also expecting 40 800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via the Covax facility, and a donation of 168 000 Johnson & Johnson doses from the United States, via Covax. The Namibian government also procured over 300 000 doses from Johnson & Johnson.

Zambia

Cases: 185 649

Deaths: 3 084

Zambia is experiencing a third wave of infections that coincides with the run-up to its general election on 12 August. The third wave has been the worst yet, officials said. In June and July, the positivity rate remained above 20 percent. Zambian hospitals are admitting about 150 patients a day, with three quarters of those admitted to hospital needing oxygen therapy, according to Zambia's Ministry of Health.

KAMPALA, UGANDA - MARCH 10: A nurse draws a vaccin
A nurse draws a Covid-19 vaccine dose on at a hospital in Kampala, Uganda.

The country remains under lockdown regulations, with weddings and other ceremonies suspended. Schools are closed, church services are limited and those using public transport must adhere to mask-wearing and social distancing. The regulations also ban, "... all physical conferences, workshops and general meetings remain suspended until further notice", according to a government statement.

Still, there have been accusations that political parties are flouting regulations. Both the incumbent, President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front and his main rival Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development have been accused of attracting large crowds. The opposition, however, has accused the ruling part of using Covid-19 regulations as a form of harassment.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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