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Africa on track to end disruption caused by Covid-19 pandemic in 2022: WHO

IANS | February 11, 2022 11:21 AM

BRAZZAVILLE: Almost two years after Africa identified its first case of Covid-19 on February 14, 2020, the continent is on the track to end the disruption caused by the pandemic in 2022, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"Although Covid-19 will be with us for the long-term, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This year, we can end the disruption and destruction the virus has left in its path, and gain back control over our lives, " said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, at a virtual press conference, on Thursday while noting that continued vigilance is key.

Over the last two years, the continent has witnessed four waves of Covid-19, each with higher peaks or more total new cases than the previous one, Moeti added.

"Against the odds, including huge inequities in access to vaccination, we've weathered the Covid-19 storm with resilience and determination, informed by Africa's long history and experience with controlling outbreaks, " she said, adding that great improvements were made in Africa's capacity to keep the pandemic under control.

Since the start of the pandemic, Africa's capacity to manage Covid-19 cases has gradually improved, with the increased availability of trained health workers, oxygen and other medical supplies, Xinhua news agency reported.

Despite the improvements, oxygen availability remains a concern, and a large majority of patients who require oxygen as part of their clinical treatment plan are unable to access it, warned the WHO.

"As we enter this new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, we must use the lessons learned over the past two years to strengthen our continent's health systems so that we are better prepared to handle future waves of the disease, " noted Moeti.

To date, nearly 672 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been received in Africa, of which 65 per cent were facilitated by COVAX, 29 per cent through bilateral deals and 6 per cent through the African Union's Vaccines Acquisition Trust, according to the WHO.

Though with a steady supply of doses flowing in, according to the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Africa still lags behind on vaccination, as only nearly 11 per cent of the adult population are fully vaccinated.

Moeti said that vaccine uptake, which is the "best defense" against the virus, needs to be "urgently" accelerated across the continent.

"We need to maintain the groundswell that we're now seeing in support of local manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Increased access, and affordability is the only solution to the vaccine inequity witnessed since the start of this pandemic, " she added.

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