Urgent Action Needed as Third Virus Wave Sweeps Africa, WHO Says

Healthcare workers take a brief moment of silence to remember colleagues who have succumbed to coronavirus on March 10, 2021 in Kampala, Uganda.
By Bloomberg
21 Jun 2021 0

(Bloomberg) --African governments must act quickly to curb a third wave of coronavirus infections that is sweeping across the continent, the World Health Organization said.

By Katarina Hoije
Jun 17, 2021, 2:37 PM
Word Count: 310

Cases rose by more than a fifth week-on-week, pushing cases to more than 5 million, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said in an online briefing on Thursday. The spike in infections should push countries and governments into “urgent action” to expand vaccinations and inoculate priority groups, she said.

“We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly Covid-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems,” Moeti said. “Public health measures must be scaled up fast to find, test, isolate and care for patients and to quickly trace their contacts.”

The number of new cases reported in the week has now exceeded half the second-wave peak of 224,000 in January, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Namibia reporting the highest number of weekly cases since the pandemic began, according to WHO data. More vaccines are needed to immunize people on the continent, Moeti said.

Vaccine Shortage

Seven African nations have used all the vaccine doses they received from Covax, the vaccine sharing facility. Seven more have used over 80% of their doses.

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

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.

Tanzania last week asked the International Monetary Fund for a $571 million loan to help it tackle the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. A loan would come with conditions, such as sharing data on coronavirus infections, something Tanzania hasn’t done since May last year.

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

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