Africa surpassed the threshold of 100,000 deaths from covid-19 on Friday after the hit of the second wave of the disease, driven by new variants of the coronavirus, while the continent tries to accelerate the deployment of vaccines.
The 55 member countries of the African Union (AU) add 100,294 deaths (4% of the world total) since the first continental contagion was detected on February 14, 2020 in Egypt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today. Africa (Africa CDC), a body dependent on the AU.
To date, the region has registered 3.79 million infections (3.5% of the world total), of which 3.34 million patients managed to be cured, said Africa CDC in a bulletin with data valid until 06:00 GMT this Friday.
Africa is the last continent, except Oceania, to exceed the 100,000 death barrier – which Europe, for example, already surpassed in April 2020 – although its mortality rate stands at 2.6%, higher than 2.2% world, according to the entity of the UA.
According to official data, the African region has avoided, for now, the devastating effect of the pandemic observed in other areas such as Europe or America.
TRAGIC INCREASE IN DEATHS
However, the continent has only carried out just under 37 million tests on a population of about 1.3 billion people, a circumstance that continues to prevent a clear idea of the true scope of the pandemic in Africa.
Five countries account for 67% of cases: South Africa (40%), Morocco (13%), Tunisia (6%), Egypt (5%) and Nigeria (4%).
The 100,000 deaths were exceeded as new variants of the virus advance in the continent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “In all the African countries that have detected the new variants,” he said, “the pandemic spread faster in the second wave than in the first.”
“Variant 501Y.V2, first identified in South Africa, predominates in South Africa and Zambia and has been detected in a total of nine African countries, including Botswana, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” WHO said in a statement.
Similarly, variant B1.1.7, discovered in the United Kingdom, was found in the Gambia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.
Deaths from Covid-19 experienced a “tragic” increase of 40% on the continent in the last month, as health workers fight against more contagious variants, revealed a week ago the WHO Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti.
Efforts are currently focused on trying to accelerate the deployment of vaccines in African countries, which lag far behind in developed countries, which have already launched massive inoculation campaigns.
FEW VACCINATION CAMPAIGNS IN AFRICA
The WHO, which for weeks urged rich countries to donate their surplus vaccine to poor nations, asked this Thursday that these donations be well coordinated through global platforms, such as COVAX, to prevent unequal distributions.
Few countries in Africa have so far started vaccination campaigns against the coronavirus, including Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, the epicenter of the pandemic in Africa, vaccination began on Wednesday, with doses from the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) that began to be applied to health workers.
The doses used, about 80,000 that arrived on Tuesday, represent the first shipment of a total of 500,000 that South Africa will receive urgently from J&J, after this country suddenly changed its immunization plan just over a week ago.
Days after receiving its first million doses of the proposal from the pharmaceutical AstraZeneca, on February 1, the Government announced that it would not apply them because a preliminary study revealed a very limited efficacy (22%) against the South African variant.
However, Africa CDC has indicated that the continent still relies on the AstraZeneca vaccine (developed with the British University of Oxford) for countries that have not identified this variant.
The African Union expects to begin distributing one million doses of AstraZeneca next week, CDC Africa Director John Nkengasong said Thursday at a telematics press conference.
“That will be the first attempt to try to reach about 20 countries with vaccines, and then that would at least allow us to start vaccinating our health workers,” Nkengasong said.
The WHO announced last day 4 that the COVAX mechanism, created to promote equitable access to vaccines (corresponding mostly to the AstraZeneca drug), would send about 90 million doses to Africa this month.
To complement the work of COVAX, the UA has secured 670 million doses of vaccines to be distributed in 2021 and 2022.
In addition, the African Union reported today that Russia has offered it 300 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine, which will be available for twelve months from this May, an offer that includes a financing package for countries that wish to make reservations.
“Bilateral and private sector partnerships like these,” Nkengasong said, “are critical in our efforts to end the pandemic.”
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.