China to donate 1 billion COVID-19 jabs to Africa to crack down on omicron

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday pledged to deliver one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa, in a speech delivered via video link at a China-Africa summit in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

The Chinese leader said his country would directly donate 600 million doses. An additional 400 million doses would come from other sources, such as investments in production sites.

He also said the China-Africa cross-border yuan center would be set up to provide African financial institutions with a $ 10 billion line of credit, adding that China would encourage its companies to invest as much as $ 10 billion in it. Africa over the next three years.

The goal is to increase vaccination rates in Africa, Xi said, noting an African Union (AU) goal to have 60% of the population vaccinated this year, even though the vaccination rate is in single digits. in large areas of the continent. To help further, China is ready to send 1,500 medical experts to help Africa, Xi said according to comments made by Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

China is investing heavily in Africa and is the continent’s largest trading partner with direct trade worth more than $ 200 billion in 2019, according to the Chinese embassy in Dakar.

“We must continue to fight together against Covid,” Xi said at the summit. “We must prioritize the protection of our population and close the vaccination gap.”

The move came as the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that the highly mutated variant of the omicron coronavirus is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infectious outbreaks that could have serious consequences. “Serious consequences” in some places.

No deaths linked to omicron have yet been reported, although more research is needed to assess its potential for vaccine resistance and immunity induced by previous infections, he added.

Anticipating an increase in the number of cases as the variant first reported last week spreads, the UN agency urged its 194 member states to speed up vaccination of high priority groups.

“Omicron has an unprecedented number of cutting edge mutations, some of which are of concern for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO said. “The overall overall risk … is assessed as very high.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the emergence of omicron showed how “perilous and precarious the situation was”.

“Omicron is showing why the world needs a new pandemic deal,” he said at the start of a meeting of health ministers expected to launch negotiations on such a deal. “Our current system deters countries from alerting others to the threats that will inevitably land on their shores.”

The new global agreement, expected by May 2024, would cover issues such as sharing data and genomic sequences of emerging viruses, and any potential vaccines derived from research.

Scientist Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a foundation that funds vaccine development, said the emergence of omicron had responded to predictions that transmission of the virus in areas with low vaccination rate would accelerate its evolution.

“The inequity that characterized the global response has now returned home,” he said during the talks, noting that Botswana and South Africa had fully immunized less than a quarter of their populations, according to Reuters.

Omicron was first reported on November 24 in South Africa, where infections have risen sharply. It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions in an attempt to shut down. Japan joined Israel on Monday in saying it will completely close its borders to foreigners.

WHO reiterated that pending further guidance, countries should use a “risk-based approach to adjust international travel measures”, while recognizing that an increase in coronavirus cases could lead to higher rates morbidity and mortality.

“The impact on vulnerable populations would be substantial, especially in countries with low vaccination coverage,” he added.

In people vaccinated, meanwhile, “cases and infections of COVID-19 are expected … although in a low and predictable proportion”.

Overall, there were “considerable uncertainties about the magnitude of Omicron’s immune escape potential,” and more data was expected in the coming weeks.

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