SADC contributes half Covid-19 numbers in Africa
By Molaole Montsho
Rustenburg – Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairperson Filipe Nyusi says more than 50 percent of all new daily infections of Covid-19 on the African continent have been reported in the SADC region in January.
"There is a growing concern that infections are being driven in part by a new strain of coronavirus known as 501.V2 which has so far been reported in three SADC countries, according to the Africa Centre for Disease Control," he said in his address on the second wave of Covid-19 in the SADC.
"Under this scenario, our health systems are rapidly reaching the limit of their capacities and the situation is expected to worsen in the short term."
He said the Covid-19 pandemic remained a major challenge in almost all SADC member states.
"Now, national daily statistics show a steep increase in the spread of the virus and in the number of deaths across the region which evidences that, the region is deep into the second wave of the pandemic."
At least four SADC countries have lost 10 high-profile politicians to the virus. Zimbabwe has lost four ministers, with three of them dying in a space of a week.
Zimbabwean transport and infrastructure minister Joel Matiza died on January 22, his death coming two days after the death of foreign affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo.
Minister of state for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Ellen Gwaradzimba died on January 15 and former minister of lands, agriculture and rural resettlement Perrance Shiri died on July 29, 2020.
Eswatini lost prime minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini in December, the country also lost labour and social minister Makhonsi Vilakati as well as public service minister Christian Ntshangase.
Dlamini and Vilakati died while receiving specialised treatment in South Africa.
Malawi has lost two senior cabinet ministers – transport minister Sidik Mia, who was also vice-president of the governing Malawi Congress Party, and local government minister Lingson Belekanyama on January 12 – the two ministers died in a space of two hours from each other.
South Africa lost Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu to Covid-19 in January.
Nyusi – who also the president of Mozambique – said following the surge of Covid-19 cases, the SADC region must intensify cooperation and collaboration between member states through increased data sharing; policy harmonisation and standardisation; pooled procurement of essential medical and non-medical equipment to address the pandemic in a more effective way.
"We must also reinforce our health systems so that they remain ready to deliver other life-saving services and better withstand future pandemics,” he said.
"In addition to health measures, we should continue to embark on common regional strategies, harmonised and synchronised initiatives, including electronic platforms to monitor the safe cross-border movement of people, vehicle and goods, as well as implementing National action plans that address social consequences.”
He said over the last few months a number of Covid-19 vaccine candidates have received regulatory approvals in some countries as well the pre-qualification by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He recommended that the SADC committee of ministers of health establish a strong regional collaborative strategy which pools resources together to urgently acquire the vaccine for distribution to citizens setting priorities in accordance with the level of risk.
"Enhance vaccine research capabilities and develop regional manufacturing capacity for vaccines in the future," he said.
South Africa received its first consignment of the Covishield vaccine from India on Monday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa was one of the countries where clinical trials were held to assess the drug’s efficacy.
"The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our country and across the world,” he said.
Ramaphosa said through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team of the African Union, they have to date secured 1 billion vaccines for the entire African continent.
Seven hundred million of these will come from the global Covax facility and 300 million have been facilitated by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
"We will be getting other vaccines that will be donated by various private sector companies to add to the vaccines that our continent needs.
"MTN, which is one of our companies that operates across a number of countries on the African continent, has made a donation of US$25 million to procure seven million vaccines, which will be made available to countries on the African continent within a matter of weeks," Ramaphosa said.
The SADC comprises of 16 countries – Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
African News Agency (ANA)