Tuesday, July 27, 2021

South Africa fights to contain Delta surge as vaccine shortage plagues Africa

The head of WHO laments the lack of vaccines being immediately donated by rich countries to the developing world.

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South Africa has reintroduced tough restrictions including a ban on alcohol sales and an extended nightly curfew as it fights a fast-increasing surge of Covid-19 cases.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the delta variant that was first discovered in India appears to be driving South Africa’s new increase, reports the AP.

South Africa recorded more than 15,000 new cases on Sunday including 122 deaths, bringing its total fatalities to nearly 60,000.

Gauteng, the country’s most populous province, is bearing the brunt of the current surge accounting for 66% of new infections. The province includes the largest city Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.

Hospitals in Gauteng are running short of Covid-19 beds and patients are being taken to health facilities in other provinces.

Health authorities are concerned that the country’s eight other provinces are likely to soon see spikes in cases to match those in Gauteng.

“Our health facilities are stretched to the limit. ICU beds are in short supply,” Ramaphosa said as he placed the country on alert level four, just one level below a full lockdown.

Authorities say the peak of the third wave – fuelled by the Delta variant first identified in India – will surpass that of earlier waves as the country struggles to quickly roll out vaccinations.

The country’s vaccination drive has been slow. Around 2.7 million people have been immunised since February, but Ramaphosa said the inoculation exercise has gained momentum.

Neighbouring Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique are also fighting growing numbers of cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) lamented the lack of coronavirus vaccines being immediately donated by rich countries to the developing world.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that there was nothing to discuss during a recent meeting of an advisory group established to allocate vaccines under the Covax scheme.

In his words: “There are no vaccines to allocate.”

Tedros says concerns being raised by some donors that African countries don’t have the infrastructure to deliver vaccines or that there are vaccine hesitancy problems are inconsequential.

He criticised rich countries that may be using that as a “pretext” not to donate vaccines.

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