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SA accounts for almost a third of 65 000 new Covid-19 cases in Africa

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For the past three weeks Covid-19 cases had declined but this week they have seen an increase of 17% with 65 000 new cases reported

A NURSE holds swabs and a test tube kit to test people for Covid-19 at a drive-through station set up in the parking lot of the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, US. | AP file photo Paul Sancya

Durban – THE World Health Organization (WHO) African Regional Office said Africa was “balancing on a knife’s edge” after experiencing an increase of 17% with 65 000 new Covid-19 cases in the continent.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said that for the past three weeks, Covid-19 cases had declined but this week they have seen an increase of 17% with 65 000 new cases reported. She said it was too soon to say if Africa was seeing a resurgence but they were monitoring the situation closely.

“South Africa accounts for almost a third of these new cases, with two out of nine provinces already experiencing a third wave. Population fatigue in adhering to preventive measures, the circulation of variants, and cooler weather driving people indoors could be contributing to these increases,” said Moeti.

She said they were concerned that increases in South Africa could spread to neighbouring countries, as has happened before.

There have been complaints that South Africa’s vaccination roll-out was slow, there was vaccination hesitancy, winter was coming, Covid-19 numbers were rising, and the vaccination registration system had glitches, among other issues. There have also been calls for stricter restrictions with the third wave ready to engulf the entire country.

The Daily News asked WHO what it would advise South Africans to do.

Dr Ngoy Nsenga, WHO Regional Office for Africa Emergency Response programme manager, said they were seeing an upward trend and even a resurgence in some South African provinces.

“We’re going back again to individuals, trying to emphasise the need and urgency of continuing to keep all the public health measures,” said Nsenga.

“Thank God the vaccine was available and South Africa was one of the countries that not only contributed to the global knowledge of science by conducting clinical trials but it also started rolling out the vaccine and has at least vaccinated more than 500 000 people, which was a big step.

“We’re going into a situation because of their winter… we’re seeing another upward trend and maybe a resurgence,” said Nsenga.

“We need to go back to what made us successful in the first and second wave, which was adhering to public health measures, again, the responsibility of individuals. Of course, the country and nation has to take that balance between not closing completely the economy or the need for getting the economy going but at least the need for preventing against getting into a third wave. That is what I believe the country is doing and WHO is helping the country to do.”

Moeti said SA needed to ensure that misinformation did not influence people’s willingness to be vaccinated.

“This needs very strong communication campaigns,” said Moeti.

She said some countries worked through church groups and women’s groups so people got the message from those they trusted.

Lesotho’s Health Minister Semano Henry Sekatle said he was saddened that some African countries were returning vaccines.

Sekatle said Lesotho needed those vaccines.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to host President Emmanuel Macron of France on a state visit today at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Macron’s visit would focus on issues regarding the global response to Covid-19 and the economic, health, research and manufacturing responses to the pandemic.

Daily News