The World Health Organization warns COVID-19 fatigue in Africa has the potential to drive and produce subsequent new waves of this deadly infectious disease. WHO reports a cumulative total of 3.5 million cases of coronavirus in Africa and 88,000 deaths.
In the past week, the WHO reports more than 175,000 new COVID-19 cases across Africa and 6,200 deaths. The U.N. health agency says cases and deaths are surging because of the appearance of more contagious variants of COVID-19 on the continent.
The WHO says the 501Y.V2 variant first identified in South Africa has now spread to Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, the French Indian Ocean region of Mayotte and in 24 non-African nations. It says a new strain detected in Britain also now has been found in Gambia and Nigeria
WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti says the fear of these COVID-19 mutants circulating widely in other African countries keeps her awake at night.
“In addition to the new variants, COVID-19 fatigue in the population and the aftermath of year-end gatherings and travel risk powering a perfect storm and driving up Africa’s second wave and overwhelming health facilities,” said Moeti.
Moeti says Africa is at the crossroads and urges people to double up on public health measures to keep the virus from spreading. These include wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing.
The WHO reports only a few African countries–the Seychelles, Mauritius, Morocco and South Africa have received a small quantity of COVID-19 vaccines. WHO Program Area Manager, Immunization and Vaccine Development, Richard Mihigo says he expects this woeful situation to turn around soon for the better.
“With the latest announcement that was made through the COVAX facility, we are really hoping that the first doses may be rolled out in Africa probably by mid-next month and by March, we will definitely see most of the countries starting vaccinating, with targeting the high-risk group,” Mihigo said.
While waiting for the vaccines to become available, Mihigo says WHO will be working with countries to make sure they are prepared to immediately begin inoculating their populations against COVID-19.