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Africa hits 2.5 million coronavirus cases as new variant detected in south

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The total number of coronavirus cases in Africa crossed 2.5 million on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally, as a second wave of infections hits the continent.

Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Mauritania, Ghana and Ivory Coast have seen a sharp rise in cases and are reporting near record levels of infection, according to a Reuters tally.

Read more: U.K. to cancel Christmas gatherings, shut shops in London as coronavirus surges

Quick measures including travel restrictions and border closures enabled countries in Africa to limit the spread when first cases were reported in March. But the economic impact of the measures prompted governments to ease them.

As people relax their guards and ditch social distancing measures, infections have spiked.

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According to a Reuters analysis, Africa has reported about 454,000 new cases in the past 30 days, nearly 18 per cent of its reported total of 2.5 million cases.

South Africa remains the worst-affected African country with 912,477 cases and 24,539 deaths. The country has seen a sharp spike in infections since the start of December.

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The South African government said on Friday it had identified a new variant of the coronavirus that is driving a second wave of infections.

Governments across the region are imposing lockdowns, curfews and restricting gatherings ahead of Christmas celebrations.

Nigeria on Friday ordered schools to shut indefinitely, banned concerts, carnivals and street parties, and ordered some civil servants to work from home in its commercial capital, Lagos.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo announced a curfew and other measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces.

Read more: Coronavirus reversed a decade of progress helping world’s poor, minister says

As developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom start vaccinating their people, most poorer African countries are depending on the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, which aims to deliver at least two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

However according to a Reuters report this week, the scheme faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations that are home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say.

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