Nigeria Confirms 973 COVID Cases In Five Days As China Disputes Origin Probe

File photo:  A health worker prepares a dose to inoculate a woman with the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a school-turned-vaccination centre in New Delhi on May 5, 2021. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

Nigeria confirmed 973 COVID-19 cases in five days, as Chinese authorities rejected a planned relaunch of a probe into the origins of the deadly disease.

Figures released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that the country recorded one of its highest number of cases in months on Wednesday – 238.

A closer look at the figures also indicated that on Thursday, there were 184 infections in Nigeria with Lagos leading the way. The country’s commercial centre had 124 cases.

On Tuesday, there were 206; Monday’s number was 146 while 203 contracted COVID-19 on Sunday.

As of Friday morning, there were 170,306 confirmed coronavirus cases, 164,772 recoveries, and 2,130 deaths in Nigeria.

China Rejects Probe

File photo: Peter Daszak (C) and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic leave the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province on January 30, 2021. Hector RETAMAL / AFP

 

China on Thursday rejected a plan by the World Health Organization (WHO) for another probe into the origins of the virus including a hypothesis that the disease could have started from a Chinese laboratory.

The UN health agency had earlier this month proposed an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 including an audit of laboratories and markets in the Chinese city of Wuhan while calling for transparency from authorities in the Asian nation.

But the vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), Zeng Yixin, told reporters that China will not allow such a probe.

“We will not accept such an origins-tracing plan as it, in some aspects, disregards common sense and defies science,” he said.

He maintained that Chinese authorities could not share some data publicly due to privacy issues.

“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Zeng insisted.

Senegal Asks Citizens To Avoid Travel For Eid Over Virus Risk

A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP
File photo: A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

After daily record numbers of Covid-19 infections in recent days, Senegalese health officials recommended Thursday that people refrain from traveling for the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival set to take place next week.

In social media posts, health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr recommended mask-wearing at all times and avoiding “movement and travel during the Tabaski festival”, as the holiday is known in west and central Africa.

Families typically mark Tabaski by gathering for a sacrifice, and may travel long distances in crowded cars and buses for the occasion.

Diouf Sarr also recommended working from home whenever possible and reducing staff elsewhere.

Infections have been rising across the continent, with Senegal itself recording a record 733 new infections on Wednesday, followed by 674 on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Africa’s COVID-19 Deaths Surge 43% In A Week – WHO

But increasing worry from Senegal’s medical community has not turned president Macky Sall from his course of avoiding strict measures, relying instead on personal responsibility.

A curfew and limits on gatherings were lifted after riots broke out in March.

Since the start of the pandemic over 48,000 cases have been counted in Senegal with over 1,200 deaths.

The ministry also announced the arrival of some 500,000 vaccine doses before the end of the month, hoping to end the current shortage.

AFP

Fury Tests Positive For Covid, Wilder Fight Moved

File photo: Deontay Wilder punches Tyson Fury in the ninth round fighting to a draw during the WBC Heavyweight Championship at Staples Center on December 1, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

 

Britain’s Tyson Fury has tested positive for Covid-19 and his heavyweight boxing title showdown with Deontay Wilder has been postponed from July 24 to October 9, promoters announced Thursday.

The bout for Fury’s World Boxing Council crown will still be fought at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

England’s Fury, 30-0 with one drawn and 21 knockouts, fought Wilder to a draw in their first fight in 2018, allowing Wilder to keep the WBC crown.

But Fury, who turns 33 in August, stopped Wilder in the seventh round in February 2020 to claim the WBC crown and deliver the first loss to the American, who stands 42-1-1 with 41 knockouts.

“I wanted nothing more than to smash the ‘Big Dosser’ on July 24, but I guess the beating will have to wait,” Fury said.

“Make no mistake, I will be back and better than ever. We will fight October 9 and I will knock him spark out.”

READ ALSOFrench Father Goes On Hunger Strike For Kids ‘Abducted’ By Japanese Wife

Tyson Fury (R) punches Deontay Wilder during their Heavyweight bout for Wilder's WBC and Fury's lineal heavyweight title on February 22, 2020 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
File photo: Tyson Fury (R) punches Deontay Wilder during their Heavyweight bout for Wilder’s WBC and Fury’s lineal heavyweight title on February 22, 2020 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

 

Fury was planning on fighting for an undisputed crown against Britain’s Anthony Joshua, but Wilder activated a rematch clause in his contract for a third matchup with Fury.

In May, arbitration judge Daniel Weinstein ruled Fury had to give Wilder a rematch and the bout was scheduled for Las Vegas.

It will now take place only 13 days before Wilder turns 36.

“This is what we went to arbitration for,” said Shelly Finkel, Wilder’s manager. “He just wanted what was owed to him. He remains ready to reclaim his world title on October 9.”

AFP

Over 150 Texas Hospital Staff Fired Or Quit Over Vaccine Ruling

Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

More than 150 employees at the Houston Methodist hospital in Texas were fired or resigned after failing to comply with orders to get a Covid-19 vaccination to continue working there, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Officials Houston Methodist told its staff they needed to have received a Covid vaccination by June 7 or be suspended for two weeks.

Hospital spokeswoman Gale Smith told AFP that 153 employees “either resigned in the two-week suspension period or were terminated today.

“The employees who became compliant during the suspension period returned to work the day after they became compliant,” she said.

Nearly 200 staff had been suspended, the New York Times reported, and protests were staged against the mandatory vaccine rule.

Last month, 117 staff members filed a lawsuit against the hospital, accusing it of “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge who said the vaccines’ safety was not at issue, and that Texas law only protects employees from refusing to commit a crime.

“Receiving a Covid-19 vaccination is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties,” Judge Lynn Hughes wrote.

The judge also reprimanded one of the main plaintiffs behind the lawsuit, nurse Jennifer Bridges, for the analogy that the threat of being fired for not getting vaccinated was like “forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust.”

“Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote.

But Bridges, who was one of the staff to have lost their job in the protest, told AFP Tuesday their legal push was receiving more support.

“117 people joined us initially. Now we’re about to add another 70. We want Methodist to be held accountable for their actions. We want the public to see that we should not have lost our jobs and that Methodist is not properly giving people informed consent or talking about adverse reactions,” the 39-year-old said.

“I chose not to get this shot because the risks for me are too great. I’ve personally seen adverse reactions within employees and patients. Everything from severe headaches to blood clots, to paralysis, to even death,” she said.

“At my age, my benefits from getting this vaccine aren’t much at all because I only have a one percent chance of dying from the virus anyways.”

Houston houses the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Center, a sprawling district that includes hospitals and research universities.

The Medical Center employs more than 106,000 health care workers in all, and sees some 10 million patients a year.

As of Tuesday, 65.4 percent of adults in the United States had received one or more doses of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots.

And yet, surveys show that health care workers have been among the greatest vaccine skeptics.

AFP

Russian Employees Rejecting COVID-19 Vaccines Risk Unpaid Leave

File photo: A nurse proceeds to a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine at a clinic in Moscow on December 5, 2020, amid the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic.  Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

 

Russian workers who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations in areas where they are compulsory could be forced to take unpaid leave, the labour minister has warned as infections spike and inoculation drives slow.

Anton Kotyakov’s comments come as Moscow and other cities introduce an array of curbs, including for the Euro 2020 football tournament.

“If the health authorities in a region make vaccination mandatory for some categories of workers, an unvaccinated employee could be suspended,” Kotyakov said in comments posted Sunday to a state-run channel on the Telegram messaging app.

He added that the suspension would last as long as the decree for mandatory vaccination is in effect.

File photo: Health workers wearing protective equipment arrive with a man wearing a face mask past an ambulance at a hospital where patients infected with the COVID-19 are being treated in Khimki, outside Moscow on May 3, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP.

 

Russian capital Moscow has ordered mandatory vaccination for residents working in the service industry, saying some 60 percent would have to be fully inoculated by August 15.

Seven other cities and areas, including the second city of Saint-Petersburg, have imposed similar rules, according to Russian media.

The new wave of infections came as Saint Petersburg, the country’s worst Covid hotspot after Moscow, is slated to host seven Euro 2020 matches — including a quarter-final on July 2 — expected to draw thousands of European football fans.

Although free jabs have been available to Russians since December, just 19.5 million out of a population of some 146 million have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Gogov website which tallies Covid figures from the regions and the media.

READ ALSO: Biden Goes To Church A Day After Challenge From Bishops On Abortion

A medical worker inoculates a man with Russia’s Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease at a vaccination point at the GUM department store in Moscow on January 18, 2021, as Russia launched mass coronavirus vaccinations.  Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

 

In Moscow, only 1.5 million of the city’s roughly 12 million people have been fully vaccinated.

A recent independent survey found that 60 percent of Russians do not intend to get the shot.

After two straight days of record infections, Moscow registered a slight decrease Sunday with 8,305 infections in 24 hours. This is still far higher than two weeks ago when about 3,000 cases were recorded daily.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said the highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India represented nearly 90 percent of new cases.

The number of new cases surpassed 1,000 for the first time in 24 hours in Saint Petersburg since the end of February, out of 17,611 nationwide.

Russia, with 129,361 deaths recorded by the government, is the hardest hit country in Europe.

Under a broader definition for deaths linked to Covid, statistics agency Rosstat has counted at least 270,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

AFP

South Africa Extends Curfew As COVID-19 Cases Surge

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) nurse Bhelekazi Mdlalose (L), 51, performs a swab test for COVID-19 coronavirus on a health worker at the Vlakfontein Clinic in Lenasia, Johannesburg, on May 13, 2020. Michele Spatari / AFP
File photo: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) nurse Bhelekazi Mdlalose (L), 51, performs a swab test for COVID-19 coronavirus on a health worker at the Vlakfontein Clinic in Lenasia, Johannesburg, on May 13, 2020. Michele Spatari / AFP

 

South Africa tightened coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday, extending a curfew and limiting alcohol sales in the face of a surge in infections over the past two weeks.

The country, the worst affected by the pandemic on the continent, has seen the daily figures for new cases double over the past two weeks, while hospital admissions have climbed by nearly 60 percent over the same period.

The spike comes as South Africa struggles to roll out its inoculation programme.

It announced at the weekend that it would discard two million of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following contamination concerns at one of the US drugmaker’s sites.

“A third wave of infections is upon us. We have to contain this new wave of infections,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.

The curfew has been extended by an hour and will run from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am (2000-0200 GMT), while restaurants and bars will have to close an hour beforehand.

Retail alcohol sales will be restricted to daytime from Monday to Thursday.

Public gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

“The measures we are putting in place now are appropriate to the level of risk and necessary to save lives,” Ramaphosa said.

READ ALSO: At Least 14 Killed As Farmers, Herders Clash In CAR

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

South Africa has recorded more than 1.76 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 58,087 deaths.

Its vaccination drive has been slow moving with only slightly under two million people have received a dose, out of the population of 59 million people.

But Ramaphosa was confident that the pace will pick up as Africa’s largest drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare, which has a contract to package Johnson & Johnson doses at its factory in Gqeberha city, vowed to ramp up production.

Aspen announced on Monday that it would replace the discarded two million vaccines by the end of June.

South Africa aims to immunise more than two-thirds of its population by the end of this year.

AFP

South Africa Enters Third COVID-19 Wave Amid Sluggish Vaccine Rollout

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) nurse Bhelekazi Mdlalose (L), 51, performs a swab test for COVID-19 coronavirus on a health worker at the Vlakfontein Clinic in Lenasia, Johannesburg, on May 13, 2020. Michele Spatari / AFP
File photo: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) nurse Bhelekazi Mdlalose (L), 51, performs a swab test for COVID-19 coronavirus on a health worker at the Vlakfontein Clinic in Lenasia, Johannesburg, on May 13, 2020. Michele Spatari / AFP

 

South Africa has officially entered its third wave of coronavirus infections, health authorities said, with rising caseloads and a sluggish vaccine rollout fuelling fears of fresh strain on the health system.

“South Africa technically entered the 3rd wave today as the national 7-day moving average incidence (5959 cases) now exceeds the new wave threshold as defined by the Ministerial Advisory Committee,” the National Institute for Communicable Diseases tweeted on Thursday.

The health ministry later announced that it had detected over 9,100 cases in 24 hours — approaching the levels seen at the peak of South Africa’s second wave in December.

Chilly winter weather is also fuelling concerns of a resurge in Africa’s worst-hit country.

Four of South Africa’s nine provinces were hit by a third infection wave in late May, including the most populous Gauteng province — home to the administrative capital Pretoria and financial hub Johannesburg.

READ ALSO: Uganda Tightens Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Surge

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa last month tightened a nighttime curfew and reintroduced limits on social gatherings in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

To date, South Africa has recorded more than 1.7 million coronavirus cases — around 34 percent of the continent’s reported infections — of which at least 57,410 have been fatal.

The country was hit by a second wave in December that peaked at around 10,000 new cases reported per day.

That resurge was fuelled by the more transmissible Beta virus variant, first identified in South Africa, which contributed to delaying the country’s inoculation plans due to its resistance to certain vaccines.

After several setbacks, the government now aims to vaccinate 60 percent of South Africa’s 59 million inhabitants by March 2022.

But just over one percent of the population have received jabs since February, prompting criticism of the government’s vaccine procurement strategy.

Ramaphosa has accused richer countries of hoarding Covid-19 shots, saying the situation could lead to a “vaccine apartheid”.

Relatives observe undertakers unloading a casket containing the remains of a COVID-19 coronavirus patient during a funeral at the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto, on July 24, 2020.
Michele Spatari / AFP

 

South Africa and India are pressing the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights on coronavirus jabs and drugs in order to facilitate production and access for developing countries.

AFP

Africa Needs 20m Doses Of AstraZeneca Jabs In Six Weeks – WHO

In this file photo an illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on November 17, 2020. AFP

 

Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine within six weeks if those who have had their first shot are to get the second in time, the WHO said Thursday.

“Africa needs vaccines now,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa.

“Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.”

The WHO statement underlined the importance of respecting the recommended interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses to ensure a recipient’s prolonged 81-percent protection rate.

READ ALSO: Moderna Says COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Highly Effective’ In Adolescents

“In addition to this urgent need, another 200 million doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed COVID-19 vaccine are needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10% of its population by September 2021,” the statement added.

 

A picture of the billboard of the World Health Organization (WHO)

 

As of May 26, Africa had registered more than 4.7 million cases of coronavirus with nearly 130,000 deaths attributed to the virus.

AFP

At Least 115,000 Health Workers Have Died From COVID-19  – WHO

In this file photo taken on March 11, 2020 shows World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attending a press briefing on COVID-19 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.  Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

At least 115,000 health and care workers have died from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, the WHO chief said Monday, calling for a dramatic scale-up of vaccination in all countries.

At the opening of the World Health Organization’s main annual assembly, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the sacrifices made by health workers around the world to battle the pandemic.

“For almost 18 months, health and care workers all over the world have stood in the breach between life and death,” he said.

“They have saved countless lives and fought for others who, despite their best efforts, slipped away.

“Many have themselves become infected, and while reporting is scant, we estimate that at least 115,000 health and care workers have paid the ultimate price in the service of others.”

READ ALSO: India Crosses 300,000 COVID-19 Deaths As ‘Black Fungus’ Spreads

He said many health workers have since the start of the crisis felt “frustrated, helpless and unprotected, with a lack of access to personal protective equipment and vaccines.”

And they are not alone. He described the overall inequity in access to vaccines as “scandalous”, warning it was “perpetuating the pandemic.”

More than 75 percent of all Covid-19 vaccines have gone to just 10 countries.

“The number of doses administered globally so far would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people if they had been distributed equitably,” he said.

“There is no diplomatic way to say it: that small group of countries that make and buy the majority of the world’s vaccines control the fate of the rest of the world.”

He urged those countries that have large stocks of vaccines to share them, and greater cooperation to scale up production and distribution of the jabs.

The WHO and others have created Covax, a global vaccine-sharing programme, but it remains severely underfunded and has faced significant supply shortages, delaying efforts to roll out jabs in poorer countries.

“We have shipped every single one of the 72 million doses we have been able to get our hands on so far to 125 countries and economies,” Tedros said.

But he lamented that those doses were only enough to barely cover one percent of the combined populations in those countries.

The WHO chief stressed the need to urgently fix the imbalance.

“Today, I’m calling on member states to support a massive push to vaccinate at least 10 percent of the population of every country by September,” he said, calling for the coverage to be expanded to 30 percent by the end of the year.

AFP

Excess Deaths Due To Pandemic Much Higher Than Reported Covid-19 Toll – WHO

A picture of the billboard of the World Health Organization (WHO)

 

Up to three times more people have died due to the pandemic than indicated by the officially reported Covid deaths, the World Health Organization said Friday.

So far, more than 3.4 million deaths worldwide have officially been attributed to Covid-19 since the disease first surfaced in China in late 2019.

But according to a global health statistics report from the WHO, far more people have died that would otherwise not have, had it not been for the pandemic, either due to Covid or because they could not get treatment for other ailments.

READ ALSO: Sweden Tops EU COVID-19 Case Rates

“Total deaths are at least two to three times higher than officially reported,” Samira Asma, the WHO assistant director-general in charge of data, told reporters.

In this file photo taken on March 11, 2020, shows World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press briefing on COVID-19 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

In 2020, the report found there had been at least three million excess deaths due directly or indirectly to Covid-19, while the official number of Covid deaths was 1.8 million at the end of the year.

Asked how many excess deaths could be attributed to the pandemic today, Asma said that “I think safely, about six to eight million deaths could be an estimate, with a cautionary note.”

The WHO was working with countries “to understand the true human toll of the pandemic so we can be better prepared for the next emergency,” she said.

The discrepancy is due to a number of factors, including lagging reporting on Covid deaths in a number of countries; the fact that many people early on died of Covid without being tested; and also that many were unable to get treatment for other diseases and conditions due to lockdown measures.

“Excess mortality gives us a better picture, because it captures both of these direct and indirect effects,” WHO data analyst William Msemburi told reporters.

AFP

NAFDAC Approves Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

 

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control  (NAFDAC) has approved the use of Pfizer COVID-19 in Nigeria. 

NAFDAC’s approval is coming a few months after it gave a nod for the use of the Oxford-Astrazeneca jabs.

The Director-General of the agency, Mojisola Adeyeye announced this during a virtual meeting on Friday in Abuja, explaining that the vaccine is for emergency use.

NAFDAC DG during the virtual meeting.

 

Earlier in March, Nigeria had received 3.9 million doses of the Astranezeneca jabs and flagged off the vaccination exercise during an event organized by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in Abuja.

READ ALSOCovax Seeks $2b Donations To Cover COVID-19 Vaccines

“I think that is about the best news we’ve heard since,” said medical doctor, Ngong Cyprian, the first person to take the vaccine in Nigeria. “I only wished my dad had had this vaccine, maybe months ago or so. We lost him but we thank God, and the fight is still on and we will win.”

Nigeria got its first doses of the vaccines one year after COVID-19 was confirmed in the country. Photo: [email protected]

 

Since the vaccination campaign began, over 600, 000 persons have taken the jabs, as the country records a lower number of infections.

‘Mild Reactions’ 

While many countries had stopped the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of a blood clot, the NPHCDA was quick to douse fears, saying those who took the vaccines in the country only experienced mild side effects.

“While the mild reactions include body pains and swelling, the moderate to severe adverse events presented were fever, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, and allergic reactions,” the agency added.

To ensure the availability of the vaccines, the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaib, said the Nigerian government is expecting about 29.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 jab.

He said the government signed off to receive the vaccines through the African Union (AU), while vaccine deliveries through the COVAX facility were expected by the end of May or early June.

 

 

 

‘Act Now’: Africa Medics Warn Of India-Like COVID-19 Surge

File photo: A man sprays commuters with hand sanitiser as a preventive measures at Wanderers taxi rank in Johannesburg CBD, on March 18, 2020.  Michele Spatari / AFP.

 

Africa risks being overrun by coronavirus infections if urgent measures are not taken to avert a similar disaster to the “very concerning” crisis in India, the continent’s disease control body said Thursday.

India, a vast subcontinent with a population similar to that of Africa, is fighting an explosion of infections, with jarring scenes of citizens desperately seeking oxygen and medicines.

This has prompted fears that as new variants spread, Africa’s fragile healthcare systems could crash.

“We are watching in total disbelief what is happening in India. The situation in India is very, very concerning to us as a continent. It speaks to the fact that we as a continent must be very prepared,” Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a press conference.

Despite early predictions of disaster on the continent, Africa has so far been spared compared to other regions, counting 3.1 percent of global virus cases and about four percent of global deaths, according to the Africa CDC.

In this file photo taken on February 06, 2021 a health worker administers a vaccine dose at a drive through vaccination center at the Sambodrome Rio Carnival venue, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

India, like many African nations, took strict early measures to combat the virus and it appeared the country had been spared the worst because of its young population.

However a new variant and mass gatherings have led to a surge in infections that has overwhelmed Indian hospitals, crematoriums and graveyards.

“It is a wake up call. We cannot be indifferent to what is happening in India. We must act now, decisively and collectively,” said Nkengasong.

The African Union will convene an emergency meeting with member states’ health ministers on May 8.

READ ALSO: Ivorian Police Arrest 12 People After Attack On Military Base

“We need to regroup and prepare ourselves,” said Nkengasong.

India on Thursday reported 3,645 deaths and almost 380,000 cases in the last 24 hours.

Africa CDC urged a return to the basics of heeding public health guidelines to keep infections at bay by avoiding mass gatherings and wearing face masks.

“Masks work. They are the only ‘vaccines’ we have,” said Nkengasong.

Africa still lags behind in its inoculation campaign, with the process suffering a setback after India, which manufactures the shots supplied through the global vaccine-sharing facility Covax, decided to reduce exports to address domestic needs.

But Nkengasong said  vaccine hesitancy was also hindering uptake.

Some countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, have had to return jabs to the Covax facility for redistribution after failing to use them with expiry fast approaching. Jabs have also expired in South Sudan and Malawi.

So far, the continent has administered 17.9 million doses of vaccines.

AFP