ZIMBABWE will bar unvaccinated government workers from reporting for duty from Monday as part of efforts to fight COVID-19, an official circular showed.
The southern African country has, as of October 14, recorded 4,655 COVID-19-related deaths from 132,251 infections since March 2020.
Although the country was one of the first on the continent to vaccinate against COVID-19, less than 2.5 million people out of its 15 million population have been fully vaccinated.
The vaccination rate has slowed down in recent weeks, as infections decline, with the government saying it has adequate doses in store.
On Sept. 14 President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet ordered all government workers to get vaccinated, giving them a month to comply. Those barred from work will not get paid, according to the cabinet directive.
“Please note that members who fail to produce the vaccination certificates shall not be allowed to report for duty, in an endeavour to implement (the) government’s thrust of minimising the spread and effect of the novel COVID-19 pandemic,” the Oct. 14 circular said. It was signed by health permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza and was distributed to heads of government departments and shared with reporters.
“Those who will not attend to their daily duties due to non-compliance shall be deemed to be absent from work and consequential action will be taken,” it said, referring to no pay and potential disciplinary action.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the country’s main labour body, has gone to court to challenge the government’s compulsory vaccination drive, which has also been adopted by some private businesses.
SENEGAL has logged only two new daily COVID-19 infections, the lowest number since the pandemic reached the country and two months after the rate of new cases hovered at record highs, the health ministry said on Monday.
“Two cases were recorded today, the lowest ever recorded,” said health ministry spokesperson Ngone Ngom. “They were in the past seven, 10 cases, but from the top of my head I think this is the lowest.”
While the number of COVID-19 infections has been relatively low in Senegal compared with elsewhere, the West African nation is emerging from its deadliest wave yet. Twenty thousand of its 73,800 cases and 250 of its 1,860 deaths were recorded in July alone.
The country of around 17 million people is pressing ahead with vaccinations, but still has a long way to go.
Vaccinations have more than doubled since the start of July, with the country having administered since then around 730,000 of its total 1.25 million doses used so far.
But it remains a far cry from the World Health Organization’s target vaccination rate of 40%.
SOMALIA’S first public oxygen plant has opened, in a ray of hope for a country where a lifesaving treatment for the coronavirus has been largely unavailable to patients during the pandemic.
Global demand for medical oxygen has surged with the COVID-19 pandemic, and many countries have experienced desperate shortages.
This and a lack of other equipment mean Africans seriously ill from COVID-19 are more likely to die than patients elsewhere, according to a study published in May by medical journal The Lancet, which cited data from 64 hospitals in 10 countries.
The new plant in Mogadishu was purchased for 282,000 euros ($240,700) from Turkey by the Hormuud Salaam Foundation, established by the country’s largest telecoms company, Hormuud.
It will be installed at the Banadir Maternity and Children Hospital, where the foundation has also funded the repair of its COVID-19 ward.
The wing and the hospital’s outer wall were partially destroyed during a nearby attack in July by Islamist al-Shabaab militants, who are fighting to overthrow the government.
Medical oxygen production needs experts to operate and maintain equipment. It also requires reliable electricity and water supplies, which most Somali public hospitals do not have.
Other countries, such as India, suffered severe oxygen shortages during surges in COVID-19 infections, forcing desperate families of patients to pay exorbitant prices for cylinders.
“One cylinder of oxygen usually costs around $50 in Somalia but can reach up to $400 or $500 (at private hospitals) because of the shortage,” said Abdullahi Nur Osman, CEO of Hormuud’s foundation.
He said the oxygen will be distributed among the public hospitals in the capital Mogadishu free of charge.
As of Wednesday, Somalia had reported nearly 20,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,100 deaths, according to the World Health Organization, but figures could be far higher due to inadequate testing and unreported deaths.
Only 1% of Somalia’s 15 million citizens are fully vaccinated, reflecting inequities in vaccine distribution that the World Health Organization warns will prolong the pandemic, which has already claimed nearly 5 million lives.
THE African Union’s (AU) top health official called Britain’s lack of recognition for coronavirus vaccines administered in Africa regrettable, saying it sends a confusing public health message.
England announced last week that it would expand the list of countries from which it recognises vaccines, adding 17 others beyond the initial list of the United States and Europe. None of those countries are in Africa. The British government sets coronavirus policy for England, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own rules.
“We regret that the UK would take this position. We are calling on them to review this because it doesn’t speak to the spirit of true solidarity and cooperation,” said Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong.
“If … you send us vaccines and we use those vaccines and you say you don’t recognise people that have been immunised with those vaccines… it sends a very challenging message for us,” he said.
The British High Commission in Kenya said in a joint statement with the Kenyan Health Ministry on Tuesday that it takes time to set up a system to recognise vaccine certificates for international travel.
Richard Mihigo, a World Health Organization official, echoed this, saying the issue is fundamentally about certificates.
“We need to see how some of these certificates that are generated could be mutually recognised by different countries,” Mihigo, coordinator for the WHO’s Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme Africa, told a news conference on Thursday.
However, Africa’s vaccination rate is still very low. Just 4% of Africans have been vaccinated and much of the continent remains in the midst of a third wave, Nkengasong said
Monthly vaccine shipments to the continent would have to jump seven-fold to reach a United Nations goal of 70% immunisation of the population by September 2022, WHO Africa said in a separate statement.