Africa risks being overwhelmed by coronavirus infections if immediate action is not taken to avert a similar disaster to India’s “very worrying” crisis, the continent’s disease control body warned on Thursday.
India, a large subcontinent with a population comparable to that of Africa, is dealing with an outbreak of diseases, with jarring images of people desperately seeking oxygen and medicines.
This has raised concerns that as new variants spread, Africa’s fragile healthcare systems would collapse.
“We are completely taken aback by what is happening in India. As a continent, we are deeply concerned about the situation in India. It speaks to the fact that we, as a continent, must be extremely prepared,” Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said at a press conference.
According to the Africa CDC, despite early warnings of catastrophe on the continent, Africa has been spared relative to other countries, accounting for 3.1 percent of global virus cases and only four percent of global deaths.
India, like many African countries, took strict early steps to contain the virus, and it seemed that the country had escaped the worst of the outbreak due to its young population.
However, a recent version and mass gatherings have resulted in an outbreak of infections that has overrun Indian hospitals, crematoriums, and graveyards.
“It serves as a wake-up call. We cannot remain unconcerned about what is going on in India. “We must act decisively and collectively right now,” said Nkengasong.
On May 8, the African Union will hold an emergency meeting with health ministers from member countries.
“We need to regroup and prepare,” Nkengasong said.
On Thursday, India recorded 3,645 deaths and nearly 380,000 cases in the previous 24 hours.
The Africa CDC recommended a return to fundamentals, such as following public health recommendations and wearing face masks, to keep infections at bay.
“Masks are effective. “They are the only ‘vaccines’ we have,” Nkengasong said.
Africa is also lagging behind in its immunisation programme, which was hampered when India, which produces the shots distributed through the global vaccine-sharing facility Covax, decided to cut exports to meet domestic needs.
Vaccine hesitancy, according to Nkengasong, is also a barrier to uptake.
Some nations, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been forced to return vaccines to the Covax facility for redistribution after failing to use them before their expiration date. Jabs have also run their course in South Sudan and Malawi.
So far, 17.9 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the continent.