Confusion and complacency in tackling COVID-19 means the pandemic is far away, but it can be brought under control in months with documented public health measures, says the head of the World Health Organization.
“We also want to see societies and economies reopened and travel and trade resumed,” WHO Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing on Monday.
“But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overcrowded and people are dying – and that is completely unavoidable.
The COVID-19 pandemic is far away. But we have many reasons for optimism. The drop in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped, ”he added, saying transmission was driven by“ confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures. ”
India has overtaken Brazil to become the nation that has recorded the second highest total number of infections worldwide after the United States as it struggles with a massive second wave. India has provided about 1
WHO team leader at COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, told the news briefing that the pandemic grew exponentially with a nine percent increase in cases last week, a seventh consecutive week increase and a five percent increase in deaths.
Tedros said restaurants and nightclubs, despite continued transmission in some countries, were full and markets were open and crowded with few people taking precautions.
“Some people seem to take the approach that if they are relatively young, it does not matter if they get COVID-19,” he said.
‘Africa must expand vaccine production’
Meanwhile, African leaders and international health officials have called for expanding the production of coronavirus vaccines on the continent, including by creating partnerships to increase expertise and investment.
Africa has struggled to acquire coronavirus vaccines and imports the vast majority of its medicines and medical equipment, leaving it dependent on overseas supplies.
Its predominantly poor nations are falling behind in the global coronavirus vaccination race with less than 13 million doses administered so far to the continent’s 1.3 billion people, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said last week.
The director general of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said on Monday that it was “morally unconscious and a serious economic hit” that only 1.1 out of 100 Africans had received a vaccine, while the number in North America was over 40 per cent. 100.
“Between a steeper fall and a weaker rebound, Africa will have lost ground to other regions,” she told a virtual conference hosted by the African Union. “So to increase growth, trade and livelihoods, we need to get vaccines for everyone who needs them.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the African Union’s COVID-19 response champion and leader of the African country hardest hit by coronavirus in terms of infections and deaths, said the medium-term strategy should be to expand existing production facilities to regional hubs.
“We also need to create sustainable partnerships with entities in both the developed world and the developing world,” he said.
African countries, he added, could seek guidance from countries like India and Brazil on how to develop their generic pharmaceutical industries.
Africa now imports 99 percent of all its vaccines, but should aim to reduce imports to about 40 percent by 2040, said Africa CDC director John Nkengasong.
Okonjo-Iweala said building more production capacity would require long-term investment, but countries could offer incentives such as reducing tariffs on raw materials.
She called on WTO members to find a “pragmatic outcome” to a proposal from India and South Africa to suspend vaccines and other medical patents during the COVID-19 pandemic to speed up technology transfers to producers with spare production capacity.
Tedros said the WHO supports calls for manufacturers to remove barriers to access to critical health products.
“We continue to encourage companies to share know-how,” he told the conference.