By Abdourahmane Diallo
For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Africa has become, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), on January 8, 2021, the second region globally where the coronavirus is spreading the fastest (+19 percent).
Only North America beats this.
From September 2020 to 21 January 2021, the continent went from 1.4 to 3.3 million recorded cases.
Over the same period, nearly 50,000 additional deaths have resulted.
The situation in South Africa is one of the signs that the coronavirus is taking on significant proportions on the continent.
If the rainbow nation announced less than 5,000 cases in November, the 20,000 infection mark was crossed in one day on 8 January.
Less than two months ago, Rwanda had reopened its schools but had to close them again.
Several other countries have also declared a state of emergency or extended the ones already in force.
This new development confirms the predictions of the director of the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr John Nkengasong who said on December 17, 2020 that after the holiday season, the rate of contamination will exceed that reached during the peak of the epidemic in July-August of last year.
But what explains this second wave of Covid, which was as sudden as it was devastating?
The CDC director’s answer is unequivocal: “When you lift public health measures quickly and unchecked, the virus comes back.”
In some countries, the downward trend had pushed governments to relax their grip on freedom restrictions to stem the flow of the virus.
These decisions have led to a slackening of the population.
In Senegal, for example, the wearing of masks was no longer respected even though it was compulsory in public gatherings and on transport.
“In Guinea, people live in total indifference. For them, it is as if the coronavirus no longer exists,” confided some of the people interviewed in the West African country.
However, “preventive measures must be reinforced in order to limit the risk of infection during the holiday season, but also to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the long term. Slackening has no place in the fight against this pandemic,” warned the coordinator of the immunisation programme and vaccine development at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr Richard Mihigo.
Across the continent, compliance with health guidelines is not a priority for millions of people living in poverty.
This is a major challenge for the virus, which has mutated, particularly in South Africa, the worst affected country.
Covid-19 first appeared in Africa ten months ago.
According to the director of the Africa CDC, John Nkengasong, it is “better prepared than before to fight the second wave. And while waiting for the vaccines to arrive, his organisation invited states to screen more using antigenic tests. The latter should allow an acceleration of tests, which are still weak on the continent".