With the start of winter in southern Africa, we may see further increases in the sub-region. In countries such as Botswana and Ethiopia, intensive care capacities are already being pushed to their limits, says the WHO. File Picture
With the start of winter in southern Africa, we may see further increases in the sub-region. In countries such as Botswana and Ethiopia, intensive care capacities are already being pushed to their limits, says the WHO. File Picture

WHO fears a Covid-19 resurgence in Africa

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published May 7, 2021

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Durban - THE World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on countries, governments and individuals to work together to avoid a Covid-19 resurgence in Africa.

During a press briefing on Thursday, WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said there were almost 4.6 million Covid-19 cases and 120 000 lives lost to the virus in the continent.

“Here on the African continent, there is the potential for a surge in cases. South Africa has reported 2 000 cases overnight, and around 10 other countries are reporting an upward trend,” said Moeti.

She said with the start of winter in southern Africa, we may see further increases in the sub-region and that intensive care capacities were already being pushed to their limits in countries such as Botswana and Ethiopia.

Moeti said 42 African countries have reported more than 14 000 sequences with variants B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 having respectively been reported in 20 and 23 countries.

With the shipment of vaccines coming to a halt, Moeti said African countries needed to get the available vaccines into people’s arms fast.

“I commend countries such as eSwatini for pre-positioning resources at the district level and expanding training of health workers, and South Africa for reviewing resurgence plans down to the districts,” said Moeti.

She urged all African countries to take similar steps now so that they were better prepared in the event of an epidemic surge.

Moeti said the B.1.617 variant, first detected in India, was a concern because there was a fear that it may be more transmissible than the other variants that are circulating in the continent.

She said there was a need to be even more vigilant while the issue of the vaccine efficacy in relation to the variant was studied.

“The situation in India doesn’t inevitably have to happen in Africa, we can avoid it. We are seeing increases happening in countries where this variant is not circulating. So I think we need to be very clear, we don’t just fear the variant from India, we would like to prevent a resurgence and third waves in all countries based on whatever variant is circulating there because what is driving some of the upward spikes is to do with the public health measures and the degree to which they are being practised or not.”

Thabani Maphosa, managing director for country programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, agreed that the situation in India was of grave concern and it was one that must be guarded against from happening in Africa.

Maphosa said countries needed to up the ante when it came to vaccines. He said there were African countries that had a handful of the vaccine that had not been administered.

“I will hope that after all these efforts that we have been putting forward, we don’t live to see a day where vaccines are wasted,” said Maphosa.

WHO Regional Office for Africa’s virologist Dr Nelisiwe Gumede-Moeletsi said the B.1.617 variant was reported and confirmed over the weekend in Uganda.

Earlier this week Kenya reported about five cases of the variant but the WHO was still following up.

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