The World Health Organisation has warned of a possible third wave of the coronavirus pandemic across the African continent while a Chinese province reported 15 new cases and US data indicated infections were easing.
The WHO said on Thursday that a surge in cases in Kenya and South Africa is threatening the rest of the continent, where vaccines are scarce.
Africa recorded a 20 per cent increase in new coronavirus infections in the last two weeks in comparison with the previous two weeks, according to a WHO report.
The pandemic is therefore still spreading in 14 African countries, eight of which have registered a more than 30 per cent increase in infection rates.
Uganda suffered a 131 per cent increase last week, with COVID-19 spreading through schools, healthcare workers and isolation centres.
According to the UN agency, failure to comply with safety measures and high social interactivity, along with the arrival of the winter season in the south of the continent, have allowed infections to balloon in many African countries.
"The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising," WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said during a press conference on Thursday.
"Vaccines are key to staving off a new surge and keeping the most vulnerable Africans out of critical care," she said.
The delivery of vaccines has slowed down in part due to the serious crisis in India, which produces a large share of the doses that were expected to arrive in Africa but has suspended the donations to attend to its own needs.
Moeti highlighted the fact that many states already have the privilege to consider vaccinating their children, whereas African countries are still struggling to administer second doses to high-risk patients.
She encouraged countries who have reached significant levels of vaccine coverage to assist more vulnerable African countries.
Meanwhile, 15 more COVID-19 cases have been reported in the southern Chinese province of Guangzhou, with a report saying the coronavirus variant in the latest outbreak is more transmissible than in previous clusters in the country.
The city of Guangdong has locked down neighbourhoods and requires anyone wishing to leave the province to show a negative virus test taken within the past 72 hours.
Respected business magazine Caixin quoted the chief infectious disease specialist at the hospital in Guangzhou where the latest cases are being treated as saying the patients are carrying a heavier viral load than in past, making it easier to pass the virus to others.
Guangdong, which borders on Hong Kong, has reported about 50 cases as of Thursday.
The average daily cases of coronavirus infections in the United States went below 20,000 for the first time since March 2020.
At a news conference on his administration's COVID-19 Response and Vaccination Program, US President Joe Biden said that the average daily cases are down to 19,000 from 184,000, the level of daily infection recorded when he took office more than four months ago.
Average hospitalisations are down from 117,000 to 21,000.
Death rates are down by more than 85 per cent, he told reporters.
On Wednesday, 16,974 new cases were reported in the US, taking the country's total to 34,154,305 while 514 new deaths were reported on the same day.
With this, the virus death toll in the US increased to 611,020.
A total of 27,986,511 people have so far recovered from coronavirus infection in the country, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
with EFE, DPA
Australian Associated Press