Covid-19 strains could prolong 2nd wave in Africa: WHO
Addis Ababa, Jan 29 (IANS) Discovery of new Covid-19 variants in several African countries risk prolonging the second wave of the pandemic in the continent and overwhelm its already fragile public health systems, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, raised alarm over the spread of new coronavirus strains that are highly contagious and could undermine efforts to flatten the curve in the continent, reports Xinhua news agency.
“The variant which was first detected in South Africa has spread quickly beyond Africa and so what is keeping me awake at night right now is that it is very likely circulating in a number of African countries,” Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Thursday.
According to the WHO, the 501 Y.V2 variant that was initially discovered in South Africa is behind the unprecedented spike in infections in the continent’s second-largest economy.
The highly transmissible strain has also been identified in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia.
Other African countries that have discovered the British variant include Gambia and Nigeria, while research is ongoing to determine its severity on patients.
Moeti said that flattening the Covid-19 curve in Africa could be a mirage unless countries ramp up efforts to sequence, identify and report new variants alongside strengthening public health-based containment measures.
“In addition to new variants, Covid-19 fatigue and the aftermath of year-end gatherings risk powering a perfect storm and driving up Africa’s second wave and overwhelming health facilities.”
She said that communities should be encouraged to wear masks, engage in frequent handwashing and avoid large gatherings in order to tame the spread of the new strains in Africa.
Moeti said that other interventions that are required to avert an implosion of infections and fatalities amid the discovery of new variants in Africa include enhanced testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment.
“Our goal is to stay ahead of the virus,” said Moeti adding that WHO has partnered with African countries to boost their capacity to conduct genetic sequencing of new variants.
As of Friday morning, the African continent has so far registered a total of 2,505,729 coronavirus cases and 24,464 deaths.