By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE (INPS) — There are over 228 000 coronavirus cases in Zimbabwe, with more than 5000 deaths while north of this country stands Zambia laden with over 300 000 coronavirus cases and more than 3000 COVID-related deaths and not to be left out, is Mozambique east of Zimbabwe, contending with more than 200 000 coronavirus cases, this with over 2000 deaths related to the feared pandemic. (P28) INDONESIAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | SWAHILI
As this happens, health experts like Malawi’s Joseph Banda have said for Africa as a whole, there is no respite as coronavirus cases continue to rise, getting out of hand in the process.
“Since the disease started pounding African countries in 2019, the continent has not had a break from the cases which have continued to shoot up. Yes, there might be little being said by the media about coronavirus cases on the African continent, but I can tell you more and more people on the continent are contracting the disease,” Banda told IDN.
He (Banda) also made startling claims that coronavirus cases in some African countries were being underreported.
By the end of 2021, Africa in fact faced yet another challenging year as coronavirus continued to pound the poor continent from Cape to Cairo.
“Africa has suffered due to coronavirus and its economies can testify to this because when cases kept rising, industries continued to shut operations resulting in many Africans losing their jobs,” Nerdy Chivaviro, an independent economist in Zimbabwe, told IDN.
According to the African Union, while the Covid-19 crisis has taken toll on the entire world economy, it has hit Africa the hardest, leaving key sectors of the African economy crippled, with tourism, air transport, and the oil sector visibly impacted.
Thanks to coronavirus, in May 2020, Zimbabwe’s tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovhu went on record in the media saying the tourism sector could lose up to US$1,1 billion due to travel restrictions that have already crippled the travel industry.
The Zimbabwean government Minister said this when he addressed reporters after meeting tourism players in the country’s capital, Harare.
Two years later, Africa as a whole has seen Covid-19 continuing to spread, this fuelled by new variants while vaccine deliveries to the continent stuttered before picking up, causing delays in vaccination drives amid intensified calls for equity.
Last year, South Africa became the first country in the world to detect Omicron variant which has so far affected millions of people the world over although often with mild symptoms.
Yet in spite of the challenges posed by Omicron, Africa has so far made significant advances in health including spearheading the novel oral polio vaccine rollout, reinforcing COVID-19 genomic sequencing and vaccination drives as well as eliminating sleeping sickness in the continent’s countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Gambia. https://www.afro.who.int/our-work-2021
By early 2021, the African continent had begun to record rising number of COVID-19 cases, with a daily average of approximately 25 000.
For many health experts in Africa like Lameck Mwansa based in Zambia, coronavirus cases are on the rise, but they are just no longer given the publicity received by the pandemic when it first arrived.
“Cases of coronavirus are certainly on an upward trend here in Zambia and Africa as a whole. The only difference now is that, the cases are not being publicized as before and that is why the world has become complacent in the face of the pandemic resulting in endless cases being recorded daily,” Mwansa told IDN.
In South Africa, Phindiwe Zama who works as a nurse at a private clinic in Johannesburg claimed they are still overwhelmed with patients suffering from coronavirus even as the world seems to get quieter and quieter about the pandemic.
“We still have patients getting admitted as they suffer from coronavirus, some with severe cases while some just come and get discharged as they show mild symptoms. More of these cases are related to the Omicron variant,” Zama told IDN.
In Congo Brazzaville, there is no respite as the African nation also battles perpetual cases of the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, there have been 23,485 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Congo Brazzaville, with about 1,700 people sick there, which is one in every 3,100 inhabitants, according to the World Health Organization.
Yet countries like Congo Brazzaville are not alone in their contention with rising coronavirus variants.
In fact, across Africa, COVID-19 cases have risen steadily since mid-September 2020, with a steeper rise from late November.
As that happens, since last year, a new COVID-19 variant known as 501Y.V2 has been circulating widely in neighboring South Africa, accounting for most of the new infections in the Southern African country.
There are however no indications the new variant increases the severity of coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.
“Even if the new variant is not more virulent, a virus that can spread more easily will put further strain on hospitals and health workers who are in many cases already overstretched,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa in a virtual press conference last year.
Dr Moeti also said “this is a stark reminder that the virus is relentless, that it still presents a manifest threat, and that our war is far from won.”
Yet even so, she (Moeti) urged African nations to religiously adhere to preventative measures against the feared pandemic.
“We call on all countries to increase testing and sequencing of the virus to swiftly spot, track and tackle new COVID-19 variants as soon as they appear. To defeat an agile, adaptive and relentless enemy, we must know and understand its every move, and double down on what we know works best against all variants of the virus,” said Dr Moeti.
With new COVID-19 variants like the 501Y.V2 variant on the loose, African countries like South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Comoros and Zambia in particular have not been spared either by the variant which went on the loose early last year.
In South Africa, 56-year-old Themba Mlilo who hails from Thokoza, a township in Johannesburg said he had a narrow escape after falling victim to omicron despite experts saying the variant often comes with mild symptoms.
“I almost died from coronavirus last year. At hospital, nurses said I had the omicron variant, but I was struggling to breathe even as they said the variant was not deadly, but thank God I made it and I’m still alive today,” Mlilo told IDN. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 January 2022]
Image credit: WHO/Marta Villa Monge.