JAKARTADAILY.ID - The African Union's health agency has urged calm in the wake of the new coronavirus variant Omicron, as per a report by Al Jazeera on Thursday (December 2, 2021).
Head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), John Nkengasong, ensured that things were under control on Thursday.
"We are very concerned but are not worried that the situation cannot be managed," he said in a press conference. "There is no need to panic. We are not defenseless."
South Africa reported the variant to the World Health Organization (WHO) a couple of weeks ago. It has quickly spread across continents, heightening worries of another devastating wave of infections and indicating that the nearly two-year war against the pandemic is far from over.
Following the discovery of Omicron cases, European governments have quickly reintroduced strong measures. These include mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing. New travel restrictions have also been implemented, primarily aimed at Southern Africa.
Nkengasong stated that the Africa CDC has been preparing "for the longest time" for the likelihood of a new variant and was well-positioned to deal with a surge in cases.
"This will be the fourth wave that we are facing as a continent," Nkengasong said. "We know how to deploy rapid responders, we know how to provide the interventions that are necessary," he added, noting that vaccines were also "flowing very steadily" into the continent.
Contrary to his statement, however, Al Jazeera reported that vaccine adoption has been low in Africa, a continent with a population of approximately 1.2 billion people, with only 7 percent of its population fully immunized.
The WHO has criticized the deployment of booster doses in wealthier countries, claiming that it hampered poorer countries' access to vaccines.