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Africa moving towards control of COVID-19: WHO director

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Africa is moving to the “control phase” of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased vaccination rates will be crucial in helping the continent live with the disease, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said on Thursday.

“Although COVID-19 will be with us for the long term, there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Moeti said. “This year we can end the disruption and destruction the virus has left in its path, and gain back control over our lives.”

Africa is heading towards “what might become a kind of endemic, living with the virus… I believe that we are transitioning from the pandemic phase and we will now need to manage the presence of this virus”, she said, addressing reporters at a virtual media briefing.

“Over the past two years, the African continent has gotten smarter, faster and better at responding to each new surge in cases of COVID-19,” said Moeti. “Against the odds, including huge inequities in access to vaccinations, we’ve weathered the COVID-19 storm with resilience and determination… But COVID-19 has cost us dearly, with more than 242,000 lives lost and tremendous damage to our economies.”

Moeti’s optimism contrasts sharply with the warnings from WHO Geneva’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has said repeatedly the pandemic is not over and that it is premature for countries to think that the end might be imminent.

“Wherever you live, COVID isn’t finished with us,” Tedros said this week. He has cautioned that new coronavirus variants are likely and could undo the progress made so far, saying populations in Africa are among the most at-risk.

A boy receives a vaccination against COVID-19 at a site near Johannesburg. PHOTO: AP