WHO Warns: Delta Variant Levels Up Africa’s COVID Threat, Ready to Rule Europe by August

With cases now doubling in Africa every three weeks, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has spread to 16 countries and it is present in three of the five nations reporting the highest caseloads. The variant is the most contagious yet – up to 60% more transmissible than other variants.

Along with Alpha and Beta, Delta is fuelling an aggressive third wave across Africa, with case numbers climbing faster than all earlier peaks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

WHO experts warned on Thursday that the numbers have increased for six consecutive weeks, up by 25% last week, reaching 202,000 positive cases. Deaths also rose by 15% across 38 African countries, to nearly 3,000.

Young adults hit

The Delta variant, initially identified in India, is now dominant in South Africa, which accounted for more than half of Africa´s cases last week. Moreover, the variant was detected in 97% of the samples sequenced in Uganda and 79% of those sequenced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The variant also seems to be fueling illness among young adults. According to WHO experts. In Uganda for example, 66% of severe illness in people younger than 45, is attributed to Delta.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before. The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level. More transmission means more serious illness and more deaths, so everyone must act now and boost prevention measures to stop an emergency becoming a tragedy,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO´s regional director for Africa.

UNICEF/Arlette Bashizi

A nurse at North Kivu Provincial Hospital administers the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a 45-year-old soldier in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Alpha and Beta

The Alpha and Beta variants have been also reported in 32 and 27 countries respectively. Alpha has been detected in most countries in north, west and central Africa, while Beta is more widespread in the south. Both are considerably more transmissible than the original virus.

With rising case numbers and hospitalizations across the continent, WHO estimates that oxygen demand in Africa is now 50% greater than for the first wave peak, one year ago.

Lack of shots

Eight vaccines have been approved for the WHO emergency use listing, however, shipments to Africa have, in effect, dried up.

“While supply challenges grind on, dose sharing can help plug the gap. We are grateful for the pledges made by our international partners, but we need urgent action on allocations. Africa must not be left languishing in the throes of its worst wave yet,” added Dr. Moeti.

Only 15 million people – a mere 1.2% of the African population – are fully vaccinated.

IMF Photo/Jeff Moore

A masked man walking in London’s West End

Delta dominant in Europe ‘by August’

Meanwhile in Europe, a ten-week decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the 53 countries that the WHO analyses, has come to an end.

The regional director for the UN health agency, Hans Kluge, informed on Thursday that last week the number of cases rose by 10%, driven by increased mixing, travel, gatherings, and easing of social restrictions.

“This is taking place in the context of a rapidly evolving situation – a new variant of concern, the Delta variant – and in a region where despite tremendous efforts by Member States, millions remain unvaccinated”, he explained.

Mr. Kluge said that the Delta variant overtakes alpha very quickly through multiple and repeated introductions and is already translating into increased hospitalizations and deaths.

“By August, the WHO European Region will be Delta dominant”, the expert underscored.

New wave of deaths

However, by August, Europe will not be sufficiently immunized, with 63% of people currently still waiting for their first jab, and the region will still be mostly loosening restrictions, with increasing travel and gatherings, Dr. Kluge warned.

“The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and deaths before the autumn are therefore in place: new variants, (a) deficit in vaccine uptake, increased social mixing; and there will be a new wave in the WHO European Region unless we remained disciplined”, he said.

Vaccines are effective

Mr. Kluge reminded that vaccines are effective against the Delta variant: “not one dose but two doses”,

He added that delays in getting vaccinated cost lives and the economies, and the slower vaccination programmes are, the more variants will emerge.

“We see many countries doing well, but the truth is that the average vaccine coverage in the region is 24% only, and more serious, half of our elders and 40% of our health care workers are still unprotected. That’s unacceptable”, the expert said, explaining that with these figures, the pandemic is nowhere over.

“And it would be very wrong for anyone – citizens and policymakers – to assume that it is”.



  1. Does the Delta variant’s dominance in Europe by August pose an increased risk of spread to other continents?

    1. Yes, the rapid spread of the Delta variant in Europe could indeed pose a higher risk of transmission to other continents, given its high transmissibility rates. It is crucial for countries worldwide to enhance surveillance and implement strict public health measures to mitigate the potential global impact. Stay safe and follow guidelines!

  2. It’s concerning to see how rapidly the Delta variant is spreading in Africa and the potential threat it poses to Europe. The WHO’s warnings emphasize the urgent need for strengthened measures to curb its transmission and protect vulnerable populations.

  3. It’s concerning to see the Delta variant causing such havoc in Africa. The rising numbers and spread to multiple countries definitely raise the alarm for Europe. Let’s hope authorities take swift action to prevent a similar surge in other regions.

  4. Could the Delta variant’s dominance in Africa lead to similar rapid spikes in COVID cases across Europe?

    1. As the Delta variant continues to unfold across Africa, the likelihood of similar rapid spikes in COVID cases across Europe by August is indeed concerning. With its high transmissibility, we must prepare for potential surges in infections. Vigilance and adherence to safety measures are crucial to mitigate its impact.

  5. How effective are the current vaccines against the Delta variant in Africa? Are there any specific measures being taken to combat its spread in Europe?

  6. I believe the Delta variant is posing a serious threat across Africa and now Europe may face the same fate by August. It’s alarming to see the rapid increase in cases and the impact it’s having on young adults. We must remain vigilant and prioritize public health measures to combat this dangerous variant.

  7. Does the Delta variant pose a higher risk to young adults compared to other age groups?

  8. As a healthcare provider, it’s alarming to see how rapidly the Delta variant is spreading across Africa. The concerning increase in cases and deaths clearly shows the urgent need for stronger preventive measures and vaccination campaigns to protect our communities.

  9. It’s concerning to see the Delta variant spreading rapidly in Africa. The rising cases and deaths show the urgent need for increased efforts to contain the variant before it reaches Europe.

  10. It’s alarming to see how quickly the Delta variant is spreading across Africa. The increasing case numbers and deaths are concerning, and it’s worrying that the variant is now dominant in several countries. We need to prioritize vaccination efforts and public health measures to prevent further spread of this highly contagious variant.

  11. The Delta variant’s rapid spread across Africa is alarming. It’s crucial for countries to implement stricter measures to curb its transmission and protect the vulnerable populations.

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