With more than 2.5 million cases and almost 60,000 deaths, Africa is still largely considered one of the least-affected continents in the world- bar economically.
The weak medical systems of the continent sparked fears amongst citizens but somehow, the devastation has been less than what was expected.
It is however not a smooth sail yet, as the most affected country in the continent, South Africa has discovered a new strain of the causative virus (SARS-COV-2), that is at least 70 times more infectious.
South Africa has close to half of Africa’s total COVID-19 cases and has suffered the highest number of deaths. This must have informed the decision of the country to pay for the first doses of vaccines that will be enough for about 1.8m people.
On Village Square Africa on News Central TV, two African researchers and medical experts, Dr. Peter Imoesi, a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen and Dr. Moses Masika, a Virologist at the University of Nairobi, Kenya gave their opinions on the vaccine, the new strains and what Africa must do.
Vaccine and New Strain
Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech prepared vaccines, with the earlier strain in mind, and this has generated questions on the potency of the vaccine against the currently raging strains in South Africa and the UK.
Dr. Imoesi said while it’s a legitimate concern, the vaccine will most likely work because the new strains are yet to identify the spike proteins on the virus. He said in a situation where the spike proteins are identified, there may be a problem.
“The new strain we have, according to papers from the genomic research of the UK government, has no significant effect on the spike protein,” he said.
“The spike protein is where the virus gets through into the human host. For now, our checks show the vaccines are good but if there’s any mutation that may alter that particular spike protein, then we may be heading for darker days ahead of us.
“For now, we can be happy that the vaccine will be effective for this pandemic.”
He said hypotheses have shown that that the new strains may have risen from an individual with a chronic disease. He cited Africans’ disregard of public health guidelines as a way to keep mutation happening in people who have the disease.
“There are fears that Africa may be the next breeding ground because of the failure to follow COVID-19 rules and regulations,” he added.
However, he said that this can be prevented through keeping the normal public health protocols and guidelines against the virus in place. The use of face masks, shields, washing of hands and the use of hand sanitizers have to be taken serious. This is to limit the spread of the new strains and nip it in the bud.
Most African countries won’t get COVID-19 vaccines until January and there are skepticisms about the potency, intention and veracity of the vaccines. Dr. Imoesi said there is the need for education of citizens round the continent as those conspiracy theories must not be allowed to reign for long.
Concern, Not Panic Should Be The Reaction
In his contribution, Dr. Masika said there is an alarming reaction to the new strains, as he said it should be treated with concern and not panic.
Adding that the strains can be dealt with as they’ve not shown devastation in the continent yet, he reiterated Dr. Imoesi’s advice on keeping the health regulations of physical distancing and others a priority.
“I think there is an element of panic which is a bit exaggerated. What we should have is concern and caution and I say that because the so-called new strain has been around since September,” he said.
“In fact, it caused 25% of the cases in England in October before the announcement that it’s the cause of most new cases. It has been circulating in England for two to three months now and I won’t be surprised if it’s in the rest of the world.
“From the sequencing conducted, it’s discovered that there are 250,000 strains and 25% are from the UK while more than half is from Europe. Africa has about 2% of them and half are from South Africa. Countries like Kenya have sequenced very few. This means we are underrepresented and don’t have enough to say the strain is not present. What we can say is it’s a relatively new strain, it’s causing panic but should cause only concern.”
Both researchers said African governments have to invest in research to aid the discovery of strains that were previously overlooked or unseen.
Dr. Imoesi said the B.1.177 strain was discovered in Spain in the middle of the year but didn’t start to cause problems until October. The new strain from the UK which has been found to be highly infectious is the B.1.1.7.
He said a part of the problems that has caused increase in cases of the disease is because many Africans have relaxed and are less careful about the existence of the disease.
The researchers said Africa must avoid being a breeding ground for COVID-19 by doing the most important things and protecting themselves.
Zimbabwe Tightens Restrictions as 2 More Ministers Die of COVID-19
Two ministers serving in the Zimbabwean government died of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) within a matter of days, prompting the country to announce on Saturday plans to further tighten lockdown measures.
Late on Friday, the government announced that Transport Minister Joel Matiza had died after falling ill with COVID-19, less than two days after the country lost Foreign minister Sibusiso Moyo to the same disease.
Four government ministers have succumbed to the coronavirus in Zimbabwe so far.
According to unconfirmed media reports, several other cabinet ministers are fighting for their lives in a private hospital.
“We are in a dark cloud that we have to clear very soon,” deputy health minister John Mangwiro told dpa.
Mangwiro revealed plans to intensify the current lockdown, which has been in place since early January and includes a strict nightly curfew.
Restaurants, bars and gyms have also been forced to close.
“We have seen people not adhering to the lockdown regulations announced early this month,” he added.
Zimbabwe has registered 30,523 cases of infection since the start of the pandemic, including 962 deaths.
The numbers may seem relatively low compared to other countries.
However, the outbreak is putting the nation’s health system under considerable pressure.
Zimbabweans have taken to the social media to blame President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe, for the country’s dilapidated health infrastructure.
Health workers recently went on strike over a lack of protective equipment and poor salaries.
Nigeria Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Hit 118,138
Nigeria’s health agency on Friday night announced 1,483 new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of infections in the country to 118,138.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also confirmed that the West African nation recorded additional five coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll in the country to 1,490.
The NCDC disclosed this on its official website on Friday.
Nigeria has so far tested 1,225,179 people since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded on Feb. 27, 2020 in the country.
The NCDC said that the new infections were from 22 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
It stated that Kaduna state reported the highest number of infections with 545 new cases, raising the tally of cases in the state to 7,176 and 56 deaths
The agency said that the FCT came second with 235 new infections, for a tally of 15,506 and 119 deaths.
In other states, it reported Plateau with 127, Nasarawa-80, Oyo-72, Delta-65, Rivers-64, Kano-46, Ogun-46, Bayelsa-30, Gombe-30, Abia-28, Osun-27, Edo-25, Ondo-14, Sokoto-12, Zamfara-10, Bauchi-eight Imo-five Jigawa-four, Ekiti-four, Borno-four and Niger-two.
The NCDC said: “On Thursday, we erroneously reported one new case, instead of three new cases for Zamfara State.”
“Friday’s report does not include data from Lagos State,” it said.
The public health institute noted that 504 people have been successfully treated and discharged from various isolation centers in the country.
The NCDC said that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) activated at Level 3, is coordinating response activities nationwide.
Zimbabwe Warns Citizens Against Patronising Rogue COVID-19 Doctor
The Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ), on Friday, warned against the illegal practice of one Jacqueline Carey Stone, who was allegedly treating COVID-19 patients using unregistered medicines.
In a statement, the MDPCZ said the public should be wary of Stone’s practice, as she does not have a valid license to practice as a medical professional in the country.
“The premises at which she is treating COVID-19 patients have not been registered for purposes of medical practice and thus posing a health risk to the public.
“She is putting the lives of the public at risk by treating the patients with unregistered medicines, including medicines for animal use,’’ the MDPCZ said.
It added that Stone is conducting clinical trials without the full approval of the Research Council of Zimbabwe, and is also working with unregistered persons to dispense and counsel patients.
“MDPCZ will not allow any registered medical practitioner to offer unsafe treatment to the public of Zimbabwe,’’ said the body, that regulates the practice of medicine and dentistry in the country.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a resurging COVID-19 pandemic.
The death toll has risen phenomenally since the beginning of this month and now stands at 917 out of the 30,047 COVID-19 infections recorded in the country since last March.
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