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Coronavirus Africa: Pandemic at ‘full speed’, says CDC chief

The COVID-19 pandemic in Africa is “in full swing,” the chief of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, as the total number of cases rose by more than 500,000 on Wednesday.

Just a day after confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa surpassed the half-million mark, the total reached more than 522,000 and increased with more than 12,000 deaths. With low test levels, the real numbers are unknown.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases at over 224,000, and for the first time, Gauteng province – home to Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria – has the most cases in the country at over 75,000, or 33%.

South Africa has the highest number of cases of any provinces in Africa with over 224,000. Gauteng Province - home to Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria - has 75,000. Above, freshly dug graves in a row at Johannesburg's main Westpark cemetery, Thursday, July 9, 2020

South Africa has the highest number of cases of any provinces in Africa with over 224,000. Gauteng Province – home to Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria – has 75,000. Above, freshly dug graves in a row at Johannesburg’s main Westpark cemetery, Thursday, July 9, 2020

Provincial official Bandile Masuku, a doctor, was shocked by South Africans when he told reporters on Wednesday that Gauteng is preparing over 1.5 million graves. “It’s a reality we’re dealing with,” he said, and it’s the public’s responsibility “to make sure we don’t get there.”

But the province tried in a statement on Thursday to calm the fears by saying “there are no more than a million graves already dug open” and clarified that the official said the province has enough room for so many.

It was also said that six members of Gauteng’s COVID-19 War Room tested positive for the virus.

Modeling has shown that South Africa will not reach that many deaths in the coming months. Several models predict between 40,000 and 80,000 by the end of the year.

Just a day after confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa surpassed the half-million mark, the total reached more than 522,000 and increased with more than 12,000 deaths. However, the test levels are low and it is feared that the actual number will be much higher. Ivory Coast Ministry of Health staff measure people's body temperature

Just a day after confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa surpassed the half-million mark, the total reached more than 522,000 and increased with more than 12,000 deaths. However, the test levels are low and it is feared that the actual number will be much higher. Ivory Coast Ministry of Health staff measure people's body temperature

Just a day after confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa surpassed the half-million mark, the total reached more than 522,000 and increased with more than 12,000 deaths. However, the test levels are low and it is feared that the actual number will be much higher. Ivory Coast Ministry of Health staff measure people’s body temperature

The chief of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for more masks to be worn, saying that “this battle will be won or lost at community level” and called for more testing. Above, a pupil’s temperature is checked upon return to school in Johannesburg, July 7, 2020

When asked about the graves, African CDC chief John Nkengasong said “it can’t hurt to think ahead” and prepare for the “worst case scenario.”

“We’ve passed a critical number here,” he said of the half a million milestone. “Our pandemic is in full swing.”

He called for more masks to be worn and said, “This battle will be won or lost at the community level.” He also called for more testing, as only 5.7 million tests for the new virus have been conducted on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

With painful memories of many people who died in Africa while waiting for accessible HIV drugs years ago, the Africa CDC launched a consortium on Thursday to target more than 10 late-stage clinical COVID-19 vaccine trials as early as possible. to secure the continent.

“We want to make sure that we are not in the 1996 scenario where HIV drugs were available, but it took nearly seven years for those drugs to be available on the continent,” Nkengasong said.

With any COVID-19 vaccine, a “delay in Africa of even a year would be disastrous,” he said.

In recent days, Africa has begun to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials with humans in South Africa and Egypt who first started trials. Above, a volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first clinical clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the new coronavirus, at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020

In recent days, Africa has begun to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials with humans in South Africa and Egypt who first started trials. Above, a volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first clinical clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the new coronavirus, at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020

In recent days, Africa has begun to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials with humans in South Africa and Egypt who first started trials. Above, a volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country’s first clinical clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the new coronavirus, at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020

Pictured: A boy sells fish in his street stall in front of an informative mural that warns people about the dangers of the corona virus and how to prevent transmission, with Swahili words reading 'We are the Cure' painted by youth artists from the Uweza Foundation , in the Kibera slum or informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Pictured: A boy sells fish in his street stall for an informative mural that warns people of the dangers of the Corona virus and how to prevent transmission, with Swahili words reading 'We are the Cure' painted by youth artists from the Uweza Foundation , in the Kibera slum or informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Pictured: A boy sells fish in his street stall in front of an informative mural that warns people about the dangers of the corona virus and how to prevent transmission, with Swahili words reading ‘We are the Cure’ painted by youth artists from the Uweza Foundation , in the Kibera slum or informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that the Covid-19 pandemic is “in full swing” on the continent. Above is a masked camel guide to a camel in the necropolis of the Pyramids of Giza on the southwestern edge of the Egyptian capital of Cairo on July 1, 2020

He said the new consortium of African institutions will commit to the GAVI vaccine alliance and other entities outside the continent to ensure that a vaccine is distributed fairly from the start.

These efforts are being contested by the United States and others who are assertively entering into agreements with vaccine manufacturers to secure supplies in advance.

The African Union said last month that governments around the world should “remove all barriers” to the rapid and fair distribution of any successful COVID-19 vaccine, including by making all intellectual property and technologies available immediately.

Africa has started participating in COVID-19 vaccine trials in recent days, given the increasing disinformation on the continent.

Trials have started in South Africa and Egypt, but Nkengasong said that a “continent of 1.3 billion people earns more than just two participating countries.”

A vaccine “is the only weapon that can restore our lives to normal,” he said.

Africa has approximately 17% of the world's population and less than 3% of clinical vaccine trials. Above, Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on June 22, 2020

Africa has approximately 17% of the world's population and less than 3% of clinical vaccine trials. Above, Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on June 22, 2020

Africa has approximately 17% of the world’s population and less than 3% of clinical vaccine trials. Above, Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on June 22, 2020

Pictured: Meals on Wheels Volunteers distribute food parcels while wearing masks in Ekurhuleni, South Africa, on July 6, 2020

Pictured: Meals on Wheels Volunteers distribute food parcels while wearing masks in Ekurhuleni, South Africa, on July 6, 2020

Pictured: Meals on Wheels Volunteers distribute food parcels while wearing masks in Ekurhuleni, South Africa, on July 6, 2020

Conducting clinical trials in Africa is “extremely important” to see how a vaccine performs in a local context, the African chief of the World Health Organization, Matshidiso Moeti, told reporters on Thursday.

Many life-saving vaccines have been left between five and 20 years from when they became available in high-income countries to when they were available in low-income countries.

That’s partly because local data is missing, said Shabir Madhi, lead investigator for the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa.

Africa has about 17% of the world’s population and less than 3% of the clinical studies, he said. “The criticism should not currently be about the possibility of using Africans as guinea pigs.”

Africa sees few trials “because there are few financial incentives on the part of the industry,” Madhi added. “So the whole conversation has to be turned upside down.”

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