World Health Organisation (WHO) Namibia Country Representative Dr Moses Sagoe has sounded alarm over the increased number of COVID-19 related deaths in three Southern African countries and at least four others on the continent.
Further, research by The Guardian (UK) shows that continent-wide, the virus was “now trending upwards in 14 countries”, of which eight have reported “an abrupt rise of over 30% in cases” in the past week alone.
And vaccine supply across the continent has been low, a situation compounded by observable reluctance by some to be vaccinated.
Dr Sagoe this week highlighted increased infections and deaths in Angola, Madagascar and Namibia; as well as in Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Along with South Africa and Tunisia, these countries accounted for 82 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Africa in the last month.
In a separate report, WHO said South Africa was recording “a sustained increase in cases” and Uganda “saw a 131 percent week-on-week rise last week”, with “infection clusters in schools, rising cases among health workers, and isolation centres and intensive care units filling up”. Angola and Namibia “are also experiencing a resurgence in cases”, WHO said.
Namibia has registered 87 deaths over the past week, and the country’s two largest referral centres – Katutura and Windhoek Central hospitals – have suspended all non-emergency surgeries after running low on oxygen.
Dr SAgoe said, “The COVID 19 pandemic is by far one of the greatest public health events in modern history which affected all countries and territories of the world and crippling health systems in almost every nation.”
As of the first week of June, the WHO Africa region had reported a cumulative 3,453,698 and 86,745 COVID-19 infections and deaths respectively.
“This is extremely alarming and hence the need to redouble our efforts to increase vaccine uptake. One of the most effective interventions to reduce the deaths is vaccination. I congratulate (the Namibian Health Ministry) for having a national vaccination deployment plan with clear vision and objectives. Namibia joined the COVAX facility in January 2021 and being a self-financed country immediately rise to the challenge to procure vaccines for its citizens.”
In Zambia, the Health Ministry this week said public and private COVID-19 isolation and treatment facilities were fast being overwhelmed as the third wave of the pandemic takes its toll.
Health Ministry secretary for technical services Dr Kennedy Malama said, “Currently, only Northern and Muchinga provinces report positivity rates less than five percent, a clear indication that the rates of community transmission have drastically increased countrywide, compared to just three short weeks ago,” he said.
He urged the public to be wary of super spreader events and to continue observing all health protocols.
The World Health Organisation has warned that, “Weak observance of preventive measures, increased population movement and interaction, as well as well as the arrival of winter in Southern Africa, have heightened the risk of COVID-19 resurgence in many countries.”
Research by The Guardian (UK) shows that continent-wide, the virus was “now trending upwards in 14 (African) countries” Africa, of which eight have reported “an abrupt rise of over 30 percent in cases” in the past week alone.
On the vaccine access front, just 50 million doses have so far been made available for Africa’s 1.3 billion people. In comparison, the UK population of 67 million has access to 400 million doses.
WHO Africa director Dr Matshidiso Moeti last week said, “The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising. Our priority is clear – it’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of COVID-19. While many countries outside Africa have now vaccinated their high-priority groups and are able to even consider vaccinating their children, African countries are unable to even follow up with second doses for high-risk groups.”
Deutsche Welle this week reported that some African nations, among them Tanzania and Chad, “haven’t even started vaccination campaigns”, and others including Burkina Faso and Madagascar “have only just recently begun”.
The newspaper said another ten countries – Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Libya, Lesotho, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Togo and Tunisia – “have already used up all vaccines they got” from the Covax facility.
Indications are that Covax deliveries to Africa dried up in March, and India’s Serum Institute – the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccine-maker – has been unable to supply Africa as it battles to meet demand back home.
Meanwhile, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is ramping up private sector participation in the regional pharmaceutical and medical value chains through the Support to Industrialisation and the Productive Sectors (SIPS) facility.
Supported by the European Union and Germany, SIPS is a SADC initiative to facilitate expansion of regional value chains and promoting dialogue between the private and public sectors.
SIPS has been involved in supporting companies to manufacture medical masks, disinfectants, face shields and ventilators, amongst other items.
“SADC will implement enhanced policy, regulatory and the business environment on national and regional levels for development and sustainable operation of the regional value chains for selected products,” SADC said this week.
Reporting by Tiri Masawi in Windhoek & Noel Iyombwa in Lusaka