Third Wave of COVID-19 Impacts Countries Around the Globe

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Highly contagious variants continue to spread, with limited global access to vaccines

Posted on Jul 4, 2021

Patients with COVID-19 being treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) in Rwanda. Photo by Stella Mucyo / PIH

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet. 

Although some businesses have re-opened and restrictions have loosened in Canada, the United States, and Europe, a third wave of COVID-19 infections is affecting countries around the globe, including ones where Partners In Health (PIH) works. 

The most recent wave, which is when there is a surge in the number of cases over a period of time in a particular region, has been documented in Haiti, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone, among other countries. While there are many factors that contribute to waves, one currently is the emergence of virus variants, such as the highly contagious Delta variant identified in 92 countries, as of June 21. First detected in India in October 2020, the variant continues to spread.

PIH’s approach to building strong health systems and responding to emergencies relies on the five S’s: staff, stuff, space, systems, and social support. In Haiti, a lack of “stuff,” namely vaccines, has had a significant impact on the country’s 11.5 million residents. As of June 30, COVID-19 vaccines have yet to become publicly available in the Caribbean nation. Additionally, “space” has posed a challenge, as some hospitals have reached their limit on the number of COVID-19 patients they can accommodate. Within the network of hospitals and clinics supported by Zanmi Lasante, PIH’s sister organization in Haiti, there are 73 beds—33 of which were occupied, as of June 28— for COVID-19 patients at Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais and Hôpital Sainte-Thérèse in Hinche, which are the only two ZL-supported facilities providing direct care to patients with COVID-19.

COVID-19 Lab technician Jacqueline Mukanshuti tests videographer Tracy Keza for COVID-19 the PIH / IMB office in Kigali, in preparation for filming at Butaro District Hospital.

Across Africa, COVID-19 cases are surging by 20% on a weekly basis and are quickly approaching numbers documented during the peak of the first wave in July 2020. In Lesotho, where an influx of people are crossing the border from neighbouring South Africa—which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases on the continent, cases are rising and particularly affecting Leribe and Butha-Buthe districts, which are supported by the country’s national health reform, and Maseru district, where the central office is based. In response to the current wave, PIH Lesotho continues to supply oxygen to hospitals; provide logistical support to transport vaccines and health care providers throughout the country; run a mental health and staff wellness program to help health care workers cope with COVID-related stress; and get more rapid antigen test kits, in addition to the 10,000 they recently donated to Lesotho’s Ministry of Health.

In Sierra Leone, COVID-19 cases are increasing and are at their highest since the beginning of the pandemic. There is a significant need to increase surveillance, prevention, and case management.  As PIH Sierra Leone responds to the current wave, the team is focused on treating patients and providing social support, as they prepare for anticipated challenges, including oxygen and ICU bed shortages. Amid the third wave, new restrictions including a curfew, suspended religious ceremonies, and limited occupancy on social gatherings, were announced on July 1.

The number of COVID-19 cases, and the resulting death toll, will only continue to rise in countries unable to properly prevent the virus’ spread, care for and support the sick, and conduct comprehensive vaccination campaigns. PIH continues to advocate for equitable global COVID-19 vaccination distribution, especially considering only 0.9% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine compared to 45% of people in high-income countries. 

At PIH, we believe that no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe.

Article originally published on pih.org

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