Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, on Friday said southern Africa’s hospitals were being badly strained by a second coronavirus wave driven “in part” by a new variant that emerged in the region last year.
Speaking as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Nyusi said the region was “deep into the second wave of the pandemic” and urged members to step up efforts to curb outbreaks.
Twenty-two percent of all confirmed cases in the SADC region were reported over the first two weeks of January 2021, he said.
The 16-member bloc now accounts for more than half of Africa’s new daily infection figures.
“Under this scenario, our health systems are rapidly reaching the limit of their capacities,” Nyusi warned. “The situation is expected to worsen in the short term.”
“There is a growing concern that infections are being driven in part by a new strain of coronavirus known as 501.V2 which has so far been reported in three SADC countries,” he added.
That variant, announced by South African health officials in December, is thought to be more contagious than the earlier forms of coronavirus.
It has so far been detected in six African nations, including three SADC members, and 24 countries outside the continent.
Another more transmissible variant that emerged around the same time in Britain has meanwhile also spread to the continent, with cases detected in the Gambia and Senegal this month.
As coronavirus vaccination campaigns gradually begin to fall into place in Africa, Nyusi called on members to pool resources and “urgently acquire” the eagerly-awaited shots.
South Africa will be the first SADC country to begin inoculating its population next month.
The continent’s worst-hit country is expected to receive a first batch of 1.5 million Oxford/AstraZenecavaccines produced in India on February 1.