Covid-19 in Africa: the specter of the “second wave”

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More than nine months after the appearance of Covid-19 on the continent, the bar of 2 million cases of infection has been exceeded, the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) announced on Thursday. This is still less than 4% of the cases recorded in the world, while the continent has 17% of the world population. There is no lack of hypotheses to explain the “African exception”. Like the youth of its population with a median age of 19.7 years, the predominantly rural lifestyle, its poor integration into the world economy or even a form of immunity linked to regular exposure to epidemics reinforcing the resistance to viruses.

But the regional management of the World Health Organization (WHO) fears a “second wave” as the end of year holidays approach, synonymous with large gatherings. “There are now more than two million cases of Covid-19 in Africa and unfortunately 48,000 people have died,” said WHO regional director for the continent, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. “In the past 28 days, cases have increased compared to last month in 19 countries, including Kenya, Algeria, Ghana and Algeria,” added Dr.r Moeti during an online press conference from WHO-Africa headquarters in Brazzaville.

Resurgence of cases in North Africa

Invited to the virtual press point, epidemiologist Salim S. Abdoul Karim identified three factors that could favor a second wave, particularly in his country, South Africa: “complacency” with regard to preventive measures, the major gatherings favoring contaminations, and the approach of the end of year holidays.

As at the start of the epidemic, the African continent is divided into two parts. More than 80% of cases are concentrated in a handful of countries. South Africa alone has reported half of the cases. But after the peak of the first wave reached in July, the number of reported cases gradually fell to stabilize around 7,000 per day. Since the end of September, the number of contaminations has started to increase again, especially in North Africa, which in turn enters winter.

Africa watches for the vaccine

Matshidiso Moeti and Salim S. Abdoul Karim welcomed the announcement of a 95% effective anti-Covid-19 vaccine made in recent days by the Pfizer and Moderna laboratories. For access to vaccines, they recalled that African countries were banking on the international Covax platform, a financing mechanism to allow 92 low and middle-income countries to have access to safe and effective vaccines against Covid-19.

In total, Covax contributors – European Union, France, Spain, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – have pledged “more than $ 2 billion,” said the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, which co-directs Covax, on November 13. “However, at least an additional $ 5 billion will still have to be found in 2021 to purchase vaccine doses as they are delivered,” the Alliance added.

WHO-Africa does not yet know what will be Africa’s share in this funding. The WHO regional director reported “discussions” with Moderna “to be able to obtain doses as soon as the vaccine is available”. “The idea is not to try to vaccinate everyone, it is impossible,” added Dr.r Guest.

“The goal is to reach 20% of the population by the end of next year” giving priority to the most vulnerable, she said. Welcoming the end of the 11e Ebola epidemic in the DRC, the WHO regional director added: “The innovations used to combat Ebola, such as technologies to keep vaccines at ultra-cold temperatures, will be of great use at this time. to bring a Covid-19 vaccine to Africa. ”

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