EYEAFRICA TV:- BRAZZAVILLE, Congo:- As COVID-19 cumulative cases in Africa top 3 million and daily case numbers exceed the first wave peak, the continent is now confronted with emerging variants of the virus, WHO’s Africa Regional Office said in a statement.
“Revamped public health measures are ever more critical to avert a runaway surge in infections that could stretch health facilities to the breaking point,” the regional body said on Thursday.
“An average of 25, 223 cases were reported each day between 28 December 2020 and 10 January 2021 in Africa, which is nearly 39% higher than the July 2020 two-week peak of 18 104 daily average cases. Yet numbers may rise further in the coming days in the wake of travelling, gathering and festivities over Christmas and New Year holidays.”
According to the release, overall cases in the region have risen steadily since mid-September 2020, with a steeper rise from late November.
“In addition, a new variant of the virus called 501Y.V2 is circulating widely in South Africa, accounting for most of the new infections during the second wave.”
Mutations of the virus are unsurprising as the more the pandemic spreads the higher the likelihood of changes. However, preliminary analysis finds the 501Y.V2 variation to be more transmissible. Genomic sequencing has found the variant present in Botswana, the Gambia and Zambia.
Officials noted that deeper investigations are underway to fully understand the epidemiological implications, but assured that there are no indications the new variant increases the severity of the disease at the moment.
“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.
“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.”
With WHO support, African countries are reinforcing genome sequencing efforts, which are key to finding and understanding new variants as they emerge and to help blunt their impact.
WHO and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention network of genome sequencing laboratories in Africa is supporting governments with training and data analysis on genome sequencing, bioinformatics and technical expertise. WHO has also developed guidance on containing new variants and is assisting countries to manage and safely transport samples for sequencing and analysis.