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COVID-19 deaths rise 80% in Africa, driven by Delta variant – WHO

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COVID-19 deaths rise 80% in Africa, driven by Delta variant – WHO

By Cecilia Ologunagba

The World Health Organization (WHO) says deaths from COVID-19 have increased by 80% in the past month in Africa, mainly due to the highly transmissible variant Delta.

Chief Executive Officer Tedros Ghebreyesus said during his regular COVID-19 briefing on Friday that the Delta variant has been detected in at least 132 countries.

Ghebreyesus said nearly four million cases worldwide were reported to the WHO last week and the agency expected the total number of cases to exceed 200 million in the next two weeks.

“And we know that’s an underestimate.

“Infections have increased in all parts of the world, with some even reaching 80% more in the last month. In Africa, deaths have increased by 80% over the same period, ” the official warned.

The CEO blamed the increase in cases on increased social mix and mobility, inconsistent use of public health and social measures, and inequitable use of vaccines.

He said “hard-won gains” were threatened or lost, and health systems in many countries were increasingly overwhelmed.

“The WHO has warned that the COVID-19 virus has changed since it was first reported, and it continues to change. So far, four worrisome variants have emerged, and there will be more as the virus continues to spread. ”

In June, the WHO chief announced the establishment of a technology transfer center for mRNA vaccines in South Africa as part of WHO’s efforts to scale up vaccine production and distribution in Africa. .

“Today, we have taken a new step, with a letter of intent which specifies the terms of the collaboration signed by the hub’s partners.

“WHO: Medicines Patent Pool, Afrigen Biologics; Southern African Biologics and Vaccines Institute; the South African Council for Medical Research and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ”he explained.

According to him, the WHO goal remains to help each country to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by the end of September.

“At least 40% by the end of this year and 70% by the middle of next year.

“We are a long way from achieving these goals. So far, just over half of countries have fully immunized 10% of their population, less than a quarter of countries have immunized 40%, and only three countries have immunized 70%.

The WHO chief recalled that the global distribution of vaccines remains unfair, despite warnings and appeals from experts, and said all regions remain at risk, “not more than Africa”.

“On current trends, nearly 70 percent of African countries will not meet the 10 percent vaccination target by the end of September,” he warned.

Ghebreyesus also announced that in response to the delta surge, the WHO COVID-19 Tool Access Accelerator is inaugurating the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response, or RADAR, and issuing an urgent call for 7, US $ 7 billion for tests, treatments and vaccines.

WHO Chief Epidemiologist and COVID-19 Technical Officer Dr Maria Van Kerkhove explained that the Delta variant has certain mutations that make it easier for the virus to adhere to human cells and that experts are also seeing a higher viral load in infected people.

She called Delta the “dangerous and most transmissible SARS-CoV-2 virus to date,” adding “that there are laboratory studies which suggest that there is increased replication in some of the human respiratory systems. modeled.

In terms of severity, Kerkhove pointed out that there had been an increase in hospitalizations in some countries affected by the variant, “but we have not yet seen an increase in mortality”.

According to the WHO expert, some data suggests that vaccinated people can become infected and transmit the variant, the likelihood is greatly reduced once the second dose has been administered and has reached its full effectiveness.

She also clarified that Delta was not specifically targeting children as some reports had suggested, but warned that as long as the variants circulated, they would infect anyone who did not take the proper precautions.

“It is in the best interests of the virus to evolve, viruses are not alive, they don’t have a brain to think about it, but they get fitter as they circulate, so the virus will probably still become more transmissible because that’s what viruses do, they evolve they change over time.

“We have to do what we can to bring it down,” she added, recalling that public health and social measures work against the Delta variant, and that vaccines prevent illness and death.

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO’s Executive Director of Health Emergencies, said that even with the virus getting “faster and fitter” the game plan is not changing, but it needs to be implemented more effectively.

“Delta is a warning that this virus is evolving, but it is also a call to action before more dangerous variants emerge,” he said. (NAA)

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