Khartoum — Health authorities in Sudan's Red Sea state town of Port Sudan say they have seen a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent days and suspect the rise is due to the highly contagious delta variant.
Health officials say over the past week they have recorded nearly 140 new cases of the virus.
Doctor Zafaran Ahmed Azzaki, director general at the Red Sea state health ministry, told VOA's South Sudan in Focus that symptoms in the new cases appear slightly different from those identified in the previous wave of COVID-19 cases, prompting health officials to believe the new wave could be linked to the delta variant.
"The infection rate has been very high in recent days, and we still believe that there are a lot of positive cases that are not reaching the hospital. Suspected cases have increased and 90 percent of them are found positive and automatically, cases of death also have increased," Dr. Azzaki said.
Health workers in Red Sea state recorded at least 60 COVID-19-related deaths in the past two months, about the same amount recorded during the entire six-month period of the first wave, according to Dr. Azzaki, adding that, "Death cases within this third wave have increased drastically but when you look at the timeframe of two months, it has reached 60, and this is our worry."
Last week, state medical workers collected 170 suspected cases out of which 137 tested positive, said the state health ministry official.
The World Health Organization's regional office for Africa reported on July 15 the continent recorded a 43% week-on-week rise in COVID-19 deaths.
Deaths increase across Africa
Continent-wide, fatalities increased to 6,273 in the week ending July 11 from 4,384 deaths in the previous week. Africa is now less than 1% shy of the weekly peak reached in January when 6,294 deaths were recorded, according to the WHO.
Africa recorded one million additional cases over the past month.
The WHO says the surge is driven by public fatigue with key health measures and an increased spread of variants. To date, the delta variant, which is currently the most transmissible of all variants, has been detected in 21 African countries.
Red Sea state health ministry officials have been unable to determine how many new cases are caused by the delta variant and say they will need assistance from a recognized outside laboratory institution.
Samples sent to South Africa
Dr. Azzaki said her team has sent some samples for testing to South Africa and expects results within a few days.
"We have already agreed to send all positive cases to South Africa so that the National Ministry of Health can confirm if the new infection is from the Indian strain or not but according to the symptoms, this strain spreads faster and its transition period is also quick," Azzaki told VOA.
Red Sea state authorities ordered a partial lockdown in Port Sudan for a two-week period, which ended Friday, but due to the recent surge in cases, health officials have recommended the lockdown be extended for another two weeks, said Azzaki.
She called on citizens celebrating the Eid-al-Adha holiday to follow all health directives and protocols, including mask wearing, social distancing, avoiding all public gatherings, and frequent hand washing.