Health workers screen motorists and people visiting a public hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe. A new study has revealed how the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded across Africa. File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
Health workers screen motorists and people visiting a public hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe. A new study has revealed how the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded across Africa. File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Africa could become breeding ground for new Covid-19 variants if pandemic is not controlled, reveals study

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Sep 10, 2021

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A new study shows that if the Covid-19 pandemic is not controlled in Africa, the continent will become a breeding ground for new Covid variants.

The findings of the study published by Science has also revealed how the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded in Africa.

According to the study, the epidemics in most countries were initiated by importations predominantly from Europe, which diminished after the early introduction of international travel restrictions.

However, as the pandemic progressed, ongoing transmission in many countries and increasing mobility led to the emergence and continent-wide spread of many variants of concern and interest, such as B.1.351 (Beta), B.1.525 (Eta), A.23.1 and C.1.1/C.1.2.

Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Prof Tulio de Oliveira, who was among the scientists who produced the study, said they are deeply committed to using the most advanced technologies in Africa to trace and combat the virus.

“If the virus keeps evolving on the African continent, this will become a global problem. It is our moral duty to try to protect Africa and the world. This was a very fulfilling collaboration.

“Not only did we manage to share and analyse our African data together, the collaboration also involved complete sharing of knowledge, with all analysis scripts shared and hundreds of hours of capacity building in analysis and data generation so that genomics can be decentralised and performed in real-time in Africa,” said de Oliveira.

Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, said: “Strengthening genomic surveillance systems across the continent is key for early detection and control of disease outbreaks.

“The Institute is very proud of this collaborative work and will continue to coordinate collaboration among public health, academic and research institutions to strengthen pathogen genomics and bioinformatics capacity in Africa.”

Among the other key findings the study highlighted is that South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are appearing as major sources of importations into other African countries.

In the Southern African region, South Africa is the source for a large proportion (~80%) of the importations to other countries in the region, while the North African region demonstrates a different pattern to the rest of the continent, with more viral introductions from Europe and Asia (particularly the Middle East) than from other African countries.

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