The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) appealed to the people of Africa to remain calm over the new, heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, Omicron, which has prompted many countries to impose new restrictions and travel bans, reported France 24.
South Africa was the first country to report the new coronavirus variant to the World Health Organization (WHO) a week ago. The new variant cases have already been reported across continents.
But John Nkengasong, head of the Africa CDC, asked people not to panic.
“We are very concerned but are not worried that the situation cannot be managed,” he told a press briefing. “There is no need to panic. We are not defenseless.”
The detection of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, has already forced some European governments to reintroduce strict measures, including mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing, while travel restrictions, mostly targeting Southern Africa, have also come into force.
The Africa CDC said it had been preparing for the possibility of a new variant for the longest time and was well placed to contain a surge in cases.
The African Union’s health body said the Omicron variant has so far been reported in four African countries including South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, and Botswana.
“This will be the fourth wave that we are facing as a continent,” Nkengasong said. “We know how to deploy rapid responders; we know how to provide the interventions that are necessary.”
He added that there is a steady supply of vaccines into the continent. Despite availability, the vaccine uptake in the African continent, which is home to nearly 1.2 billion people, has been quite low, with only seven percent of the population fully inoculated.
Africa requires about 1.5 billion vaccine doses to fully vaccinate 60 percent of the total population. So far, the continent has received only about 400 million doses.