Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Wednesday said all African countries have now developed laboratory capacity to test for the novel coronavirus, reported Reuters.
During a virtual conference on COVID-19 vaccine development and access across Africa, Ghebreyesus warned that the coronavirus pandemic was accelerating.
“The most recent one million cases of COVID-19 were reported in just one week,” the WHO chief said.
Ghebreyesus added that over 220 vaccine candidates are currently being worked on and urged that an effective vaccine be available and developed at an unprecedented scale.
Meanwhile, John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, called on countries to secure sufficient vaccine supplies to avoid Africa being left out.
“Unless we act now Africa is at risk of being left behind in the global vaccine race,” Nkengasong said.
He suggested a key step would be for Africa to partner with the GAVI vaccines alliance which has raised $2 billion from international donors for an Advanced Market Commitment to buy future COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries.
Notably, the total number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 9.4 million on Thursday. The WHO said it is expecting global infections to pass 10 million by the end of the week. At least 480,000 people have died so far.
Ghebreyesus said it was a “sober reminder” of COVID-19’s continued prevalence. In the past month alone, he said nearly four million new cases have been reported to the WHO.
The international health body also warned that many countries are now experiencing difficulties in obtaining oxygen concentrators as demand is currently outstripping supply.
The WHO estimates that at the current rate of about 1 million new cases a week, the world needs about 620,000 cubic meters of oxygen a day, which is about 88,000 large cylinders.