COVID-19 cases increasing in Africa: WHO
COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline but omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in Africa and the Americas.
Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, told journalists at the weekly briefing in Geneva on Wednesday that despite weekly fatalities being at their lowest since March 2020, they do not tell the full story.
“The South African scientists who identified Omicron late last year have now reported two more Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, as the reason for a spike in cases in South Africa,” disclosed Mr Ghebreyesus. “It’s too soon to know whether these new sub-variants can cause more severe disease than other Omicron sub-variants, but early data suggest vaccination remains protective against severe the disease and death.”
He explained that the best way to protect people would be through vaccination, alongside tried and tested public health and social measures, warning that this “is another sign that the pandemic is not done with us, and there are some clear takeaways.”
According to the WHO chief, the best way to save lives, protect health systems and minimise cases of “long COVID” is by vaccinating at least 70 per cent of every country’s population – and 100 per cent of most at-risk groups.
He added that although more jabs had become available, a lack of political commitment, operational capacity problems, financial constraints, misinformation, and disinformation, had been limiting vaccine demand.
“We urge all countries to address these bottlenecks to provide protection to their populations,” he noted.
Mr Ghebreyesus cautioned that many countries were blind to how the virus is mutating, not knowing what lies ahead.
“Scant availability and high prices of effective antivirals continue to render them inaccessible to low- and middle-income countries,” he stated. “Coupled with low investment in early diagnosis, it is simply not acceptable that in the worst pandemic in a century, innovative treatments that can save lives are not reaching those that need them.”
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