Confusion and complacency in addressing COVID-19 mean the pandemic is far from over, but can be controlled in months with proven public health measures, the head of the World Health Organization said.
“We too want to see the reopening of societies and economies, and the resumption of travel and trade,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Monday.
“But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying, and it is totally avoidable.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. But we have many reasons for optimism. The decrease in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped, “he added, and said that transmission was being 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 battles a massive second wave. India has administered around 105 million doses of vaccines among a population of 1.4 billion.
The leader of the WHO team on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said at the press conference that the pandemic was growing exponentially, with a nine percent increase in cases last week, the seventh consecutive week of increases and a five percent increase in deaths.
Tedros said that in some countries, despite the continuous broadcast, restaurants and nightclubs were full and markets were open and crowded with few people taking precautions.
“Some people seem to be taking the approach that if they’re relatively young, it doesn’t matter if they get COVID-19,” he said.
‘Africa must expand vaccine production’
Meanwhile, African leaders and international health officials have called for the expansion of coronavirus vaccine manufacturing on the continent, including through partnerships to drive 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 foreign supplies.
Their mainly poor nations are falling behind in the global coronavirus vaccination race with fewer than 13 million doses administered so far to the continent’s 1.3 billion people, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week. Disease Prevention (Africa CDC).
The director general of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said on Monday that it was “morally inconceivable and a serious economic blow” that only 1.1 out of 100 Africans had received a vaccine, while in North America the The rate was over 40 percent.
“Between a steeper decline and a weaker rebound, Africa will have lost ground to other regions,” he told a virtual conference organized by the African Union. “So to drive growth, trade and livelihoods, we must get vaccines to 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 the coronavirus in terms of infections and deaths, said the medium-term strategy should be to expand existing manufacturing facilities in regional centers.
“We also need to forge sustainable partnerships with entities in both the developed and developing world,” he said.
African countries, he added, could seek guidance from countries like India and Brazil on how they developed their generic pharmaceutical industries.
Africa now imports 99 percent of all its vaccines, but should aim to reduce imports to around 40 percent by 2040, said CDC Africa Director John Nkengasong.
Okonjo-Iweala said building more manufacturing capacity would require long-term investments, but countries could offer incentives such as cutting tariffs on raw materials.
He encouraged WTO members to find a “pragmatic outcome” for a proposal by India and South Africa to suspend vaccines and other medical patents during the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate technology transfers to manufacturers with surplus production capacity.
Tedros said the WHO supports calls for manufacturers to remove barriers that prevent access to critical healthcare products.
“We continue to ask companies to share their technical knowledge,” he said at the conference.