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Covid-19 to be more deadly in 2021: WHO

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far claimed over 3.3 million lives across the globe after infecting more than 163 million is set to become more deadly this year compared to 2020, World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

Covid-19 broke out in China late 2019 before spreading across the world with its impact much felt during the entire 2020.

The warning comes at a time when a number of countries are already administering vaccines to their populations while others like India are registering increases in both infections and deaths.

As at May 16, Zimbabwe’s cumulative Covid-19 cases stand at 38,560 of which 1, 582 are fatalities.

Briefing the media on Covid-19 Friday, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said so many people around the globe remained unprotected, describing it as a sad reflection on the gross distortion in access to vaccines.

“Covid-19 has already cost more than 3.3 million lives and we’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first,” said Ghebreyesus.

“Saving lives and livelihoods with a combination of public health measures and vaccination – not one or the other – is the only way out of the pandemic. The fact that so many are still not protected is a sad reflection on the gross distortion in access to vaccines across the globe.”

The WHO chief said while they had warned last September about the threat of vaccine nationalism they were dismissed as being alarmist by some people.

“In January, I spoke about the potential unfolding of a moral catastrophe,” said Ghebreyesus.

“Unfortunately, we are now witnessing this play out. In a handful of rich countries, which bought up the majority of the vaccine supply, lower risk groups are now being vaccinated. I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX. 

He said in low and lower-middle income countries, vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunize health and care workers, adding hospitals were being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently.

“At present, only 0.3% of vaccine supply is going to low-income countries,” he decried.

“Trickle down vaccination is not an effective strategy for fighting a deadly respiratory virus. India remains hugely concerning, with several states continuing to see a worrying number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. WHO is responding and has shipped thousands of oxygen concentrators, tents for mobile field hospitals, masks and other medical supplies. And we thank all the stakeholders who are supporting India.

He however said, it was not only India that has emergency needs.

“Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Egypt are just some of the countries that are dealing with spikes in cases and hospitalizations,” he said.

“Some countries in the Americas still have high numbers of cases and as a region, the Americas accounted for 40% of all Covid-19 deaths last week. There are also spikes in some countries in Africa. These countries are in heightened response mode and WHO will continue to provide support in all ways possible.”

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