GENEVA – The World Health Organization urges African countries to be on guard and to remain vigilant in their fight against a resurgence of COVID-19 transmission across the continent.
To date, African countries are reporting more than 4.5 million cases of COVID, including 120,000 deaths. WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti says the latest figures indicate this deadly virus has continued to plateau on the continent.
While welcoming a seemingly good news, she warns the pandemic is trending upwards in 13 countries.
“We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security as the continent’s case count appears relatively stable. The devastating surge of cases and deaths in India, and increases in other regions of the world, are clear signs of the risk of resurgence in African countries. The toxic mix driving this upsurge is present here in Africa,” she said.
Moeti said countries are letting down their guard and weakening their adherence to preventive measures. She said super-spreader events such as mass gatherings and population movements are increasing. Moeti pointed to a WHO analysis of 46 African countries that found almost half are facing a considerable risk of a surge.
She said Africa must learn from the tragic situation unfolding in India and take precautions. Moeti added that mass religious gatherings, large election campaign events, and the circulation of new variants of COVID have triggered the explosive growth in cases and deaths throughout that country.
“There probably has been a dropping off, of the observation by the population of the masking, physical distancing, and hand-washing measures. I think the lesson that we can learn in Africa — one, is to anticipate that such a wave is possible in different countries and to really look at what are some of the driving factors,” she said.
Moeti cited the importance of avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining proven public health measures, including masking, social distancing, testing, and tracing of contacts.
Africa has obtained most of its COVID vaccines from India through the COVAX vaccine-sharing program. This supply has dried up since India imposed an export ban on vaccines. The COVAX vaccine distribution plan’s goal is to deliver millions of vaccine doses to low-income countries, including in Africa.
Moeti said it is understandable that India wants to use these vaccines to immunize its own population. However, she said she is very concerned about delays in obtaining these life-saving vaccines. She said Africa will have to find alternative supplies if it is to have any chance of stopping the coronavirus from spreading.