Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
There are fears that the continent’s health system, already beleaguered in many countries, could be overwhelmed.
Alarm as the virus spreads to densely populated areas
Clerics and governments are worried. Jesuit priest, Fr. Charles Chilufya, the Coordinator of the Africa Task Force of the Vatican’s Covid-19 Commission and Director of the Justice and Ecology Office of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) has spoken of the concern of many African governments.
“Several African countries have reported a further increase” (of the coronavirus) over the past month. The novelty of this second wave is that the virus “has started to spread in densely populated areas,” Fr. Chilufya said.
Bishops in Zambia and Tanzania urge more collaboration
The Bishops of Zambia, on Thursday, this week, issued a statement urging Zambians to unite and combat the devastating disease that has claimed the lives of a Bishop as well as several priests and sisters in the country.
“It is clear the pandemic has spread to all parts of the country and is in our communities. As we fight against Covid-19, we urge all Zambians, regardless of their social, cultural, religious and political affiliation, to put aside their differences and unite for a common goal,” the Bishops said in the statement.
Similarly, Tanzanian Bishops in a statement to Agenzia Fides cautioned their compatriots about the “new wave of coronavirus infections,” which have led to an increase in deaths. “Our country is not an island ...We must defend ourselves, take precautions, and cry out to God with all our might so that this scourge will not overtake us,” said the East African prelates.
A complicated second phase
In the first phase of the Covid-19 wave, African countries fared reasonably well in containing infections largely through stringent actions. However, observers say many African countries cannot afford to keep countries under lockdown for prolonged periods. Unfortunately, this could also mean that the virus is spreading unrestrained and resulting in the recent high infections seen on the continent.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, says the 501Y.V2 variant, first identified in South Africa, is now driving the spread of infections on the continent.
Highest fatality rate and lack of vaccines
At 2.5 per cent, Africa’s Covid-19 case fatality rate is now above the global rate of 2.2 per cent. Some African countries are said to have case fatality rates of 3 per cent and possibly more.
A lack of vaccines is complicating an already difficult situation.
The African Union has put together an African vaccine acquisition task team to source vaccine doses for the continent’s 1.3 billion population. Amidst a fierce worldwide competition for vaccines and hoarding by some countries, it may be a long while before meaningful quantities of vaccines find their way to the continent’s ordinary citizens.