The World Health Organization says renewed efforts are needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus as scientists scramble to determine the risks posed by the new Omicron variant. Low vaccine rates combined with public fatigue on safety measures are putting more people in Africa at risk.
Experts say it should come as no surprise that a new form of coronavirus has been discovered.
Less than 8 percent of Africans are vaccinated against COVID-19, creating an environment for the disease to spread and mutate.
Dr. Mary Stephen is the technical officer of the World Health Organization’s Africa Office.
He said that in the absence of vaccines, there is a need to encourage the public to maintain other measures to reduce the spread and save lives.
“We can’t get tired; We have to continue to ensure that we are adhering to wearing our face masks, keeping our distance, avoiding unnecessary mass gatherings, ensuring good hand hygiene, so that it is another layer of protection apart from vaccinations,” he said.
The Omicron type was detected last week by scientists in South Africa.
Research is underway to determine how transmissible it is and its response to vaccines.
Explainer: How concerned should we be about the Omicron version?
Amid the uncertainty, Britain, the United States and the European Union reacted by imposing travel restrictions in southern Africa.
However, Steffen said the variant has already crossed continents and the halting of flights to African countries, which have long implemented testing for passengers, is an incorrect response.
“The world must react to them in solidarity. The solution is not about banning travel, but our ability to identify these cases, identify potential risks, mitigate the risks, while still facilitating international travel as we have seen the impact of COVID on the economy. has seen its devastating effects,” she said.
Jeremiah Shukudu is all too familiar with the economic toll of the pandemic.
The 45-year-old Uber driver said two of his cars were taken back last year because he could no longer pay during the lockdown.
Shukudu said he fears he is about to take another financial hit with the new version.
“I think we’ve lost almost 50% of what we’ve been earning lately. Being dependent on Uber, business was down, that meant I wouldn’t be able to support the family,” he said .
Despite the pandemic’s impact on him, Shukudu said he is still hesitant to get vaccinated.
With a new variant in danger, experts are hoping people like him will reconsider.
Dr. Michelle Gromm is with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases of South Africa.
“Hopefully, you know, with some concern when the fourth wave comes, hopefully, you know, those who were on the fence can actually go and get vaccinated,” she said.
More than 3,200 people in South Africa tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, a significant increase from the day before.
The government is campaigning to get more people vaccinated and even giving grocery vouchers to those who get their shots.
Government figures show that at least 41 percent of South African adults have now been vaccinated.