#REUTERS. | Canada approves Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for 5-11 year olds

In a busy market square on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, Nyasha Ndou keeps her face mask in her pocket.

Around him, hundreds of other people, most of them unmasked, scramble to buy and sell fruits and vegetables displayed on wooden tables and plastic sheeting.

Here, as in several African cities, the coronavirus seems to be relegated to the past. Political rallies, concerts and extended family reunions are back.

“COVID-19 is gone, when was the last time you heard of someone who died from COVID-19?”, s’interroge Nyasha Ndou. “In fact the mask is there to protect my pocket against the police who demand bribes if we move without it”, he explains.

As of the start of the week, Zimbabwe recorded just 33 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

A trend confirmed across the African continent by data from the World Health Organization (WHO), which shows that infections linked to the coronavirus have been declining since July.

Very few masks in sight during the return of political exiles to Conakry, Guinea, on September 18, 2021.

Very few masks in sight during the return of political exiles to Conakry, Guinea, on September 18, 2021.

Yet when the coronavirus emerged last year, health officials, including at the WHO, said they feared the pandemic could wreak havoc in Africa. Some have even gone so far as to predict millions of victims. Although it is still not clear what the final toll of the COVID-19 disease will be, this catastrophic scenario has not materialized in Zimbabwe or most of the African continent.

Something is happening “mysterious” in Africa, according to Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University. “Africa does not have the vaccines and resources to fight COVID-19 like it does in Europe and the United States, but somehow it seems to be. get out better “, she adds.

Less than 6% of vaccinated

Less than 6% of the population in Africa is vaccinated against the coronavirus. For months, the WHO has described Africa as “one of the least affected regions in the world” in its weekly pandemic reports.

According to some researchers, the youth of the continent’s population – the average age is 20 compared to around 43 in Western Europe – as well as its low rate of urbanization and its tendency to spend time outdoors, may have spared the deadliest effects of the virus so far.

Several studies are trying to determine if there are other explanations, including genetic reasons or exposure to other diseases.

“It’s not always about how much money you have or how sophisticated your hospitals are.”says Christian Happi, director of the African Center of Excellence for Infectious Disease Genomics at Redeemer University, Nigeria.

He adds that African health authorities are used to containing epidemics even in the absence of vaccines and that they can rely on the vast networks of community health workers.

“I think there is a different cultural approach in Africa, where these countries have approached COVID with a sense of humility because they have experienced things like Ebola, polio and malaria.”, says Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The South African exception

In recent months, the coronavirus has hit South Africa hard and is estimated to have killed more than 89,000 people there, by far the highest number of deaths on the continent.

WHO data shows that deaths in Africa represent only 3% of the global total. In comparison, deaths in the Americas and Europe account for 46% and 29%, respectively.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the government has so far recorded nearly 3,000 deaths among its 200 million people. This is the equivalent of the number of deaths recorded in the United States every two or three days.

These low numbers give relief to Nigerians like Opemipo Are, a 23-year-old living in Abuja. “They said there would be corpses in the streets and all that, but nothing like that happened”, he notes.

Nonetheless, experts ask people to be careful.

“People must remain very vigilant”, warns Dr Johannes Marisa, president of the Zimbabwe Association of Private Physicians and Dentists. He fears another wave of coronavirus will hit the country next month. “It is complacency that risks destroying us because we could be caught off guard.”

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Source: Reuters-VOA.

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About Reuters

REUTERS: is an international news organization owned by Thomson Reuters. Until 2008, the Reuters news agency formed part of an independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data.

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