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COVID-19: Third wave rages in Africa as the developed world moves on

*The situation causes us to reflect deeply and ask ourselves existential questions on the meanings of multilateralism, of the meanings of humanity. What do these concepts now mean in the face of COVID-19? Asks Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

It is a tale of two worlds in connection with the burning issues of vaccine equity, vaccine hoarding, vaccine shortage, and reported inequality in vaccinations on the continent.

As the richest countries across the globe ease off Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, prepare for a return to pre-pandemic era in their economies and move on with life, Africa yet is in the grip of a rapidly intensifying third wave of the disruptive disease.

ConsumerConnect gathered that across the Black continent, hospital beds yet are filling up and oxygen supplies are dwindling.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and Uganda are reporting record case increases, while South Africa and Zambia are also hard hit, according to agency report.

Never have the calls to end vaccine hoarding by the developed world seemed so poignant.

It was learnt that as the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) have fully inoculated approximately 45 percent of their people and the European Union (EU) about a quarter, just 0.8 percent  of Africa’s 1.1 billion inhabitants have received two doses.

Incidentally, few African countries have had the financial or organisational ability to negotiate their own supply deals with pharmaceutical companies as the richer economies have long done.

And COVAX facility, the vaccine-sharing initiative, has been slow to deliver and is hamstrung by India’s reluctance to allow exports during its own crisis.

The US and UK have joined China in making announcements about vaccine donations, but those promised shots will not arrive for months.

Observers hold that by the time such vaccine donations get to their beneficiaries in Africa, tens of thousands of Africans, if not more, will be dead and restrictions on gatherings and school closures will have set the continental economy back even further.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi was quoted to have said in a recent interview, that the situation “causes us to reflect deeply and ask ourselves existential questions on the meanings of multilateralism, of the meanings of humanity.

“What do these concepts now mean in the face of COVID-19?”

WHO urges urge action as third wave of pandemic sweeps the continent

Likewise, it is noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently urged the global world to intervene by rallying urgent action as the third wave of the damaging pandemic sweeps the African continent.

COVID-19 vaccination

According to the UN health body, Coronavirus cases as of June 17, 2021, rose by 20 percent week-on-week on the continent, with DRC and Uganda recording the highest number of weekly cases.

The organisation said that African governments must act quickly to curb a third wave of the Coronavirus infections that is sweeping across the continent.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in an online briefing Thursday, June 17 stated that cases rose by more than a fifth week-on-week, pushing cases to more than 5 million in Africa.

The spike in infections should push countries and governments into “urgent action” to expand vaccinations and inoculate priority groups, WHO chief said.

Moeti stated: “We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly COVID-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems.

“Public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate and care for patients and to quickly trace their contacts.”

According to WHO data, the number of new cases reported in the week has now exceeded half the second-wave peak of 224,000 January this year, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Namibia reporting the highest number of weekly cases since the pandemic began.

More vaccines are needed to immunise people on the African continent, Moeti said.

In regard to vaccine shortage, seven African countries have used all the vaccine doses they received from COVAX, the vaccine sharing facility. Seven more, including Nigeria, have used over 80 percent of their doses.

Moeti said: “If we are to curb the third wave Africa needs doses here and now.”

The call for more vaccines came as Tanzania officially began the process of joining COVAX, one of the last countries on the continent to do so.

In this regard, Tanzania recently urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $571 million loan to help it tackle the pressing challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agency report, however, noted that a loan would come with conditions, such as sharing data on Coronavirus infections, something Tanzania has not done since May 2020.

Moeti stressed WHO “strongly urges” Tanzania to share data now, so that they will receive vaccines, and “so that we can support them fully.”

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