Coronavirus Africa news summary: Wednesday 18 August

Coronavirus live updates: Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana... cases, deaths and news

Coronavirus Africa live: latest news - 18 August

This live blog is now closed. For the latest developments relating to the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa, please follow the Wednesday 19 August live coverage here.

The unexpected “health dividend” from Covid action

The pandemic has made a lot of bad things worse, but South Africa's near-total lack of a flu season this year stands out as a rare positive effect.

“It is a totally unprecedented event to not see flu,” said Cheryl Cohen, who leads NICD’s respiratory disease team. While she and other experts in South Africa said some people were certainly staying home and not reporting mild sicknesses, they all agreed that South Africa basically skipped its flu season — and that the coronavirus is to thank.

“The main explanation is that measures against coronavirus are having an impact on flu transmission,” Cohen said.

Read the full story

Ghana Football Association (GFA) has confirmed that seven players of the women's national teams (U-20 women’s team) and Black Maidens (U-17 women’s team) have tested positive.

25 health workers infected with coronavirus in Anambra

The Commissioner for Health in Anambra, Dr Vincent Okpala, on Tuesday, said that no fewer than 25 health workers had been diagnosed and confirmed to have been infected with the novel Coronavirus pandemic in the state.

The commissioner said it while speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day Covid-19 Infection Prevention and Control Training of Trainers in Agulu, Anaocha Local Government Council Area of the state.

The programme was organised by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Anambra chapter, to train 25 members selected from the zones across the state.

Namibia warns about elephant dung coronavirus cure

“We have seen on social media people selling elephant dung at exorbitant prices. There is a whole hype around it,” Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism spokesman, Romeo Muyunda said. 

Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said Covid-19 currently has no known cure. 

“If anybody claims as such, it must be treated as a false claim,” he told The Namibian newspaper.

WHO: 'We are nowhere close' to having the herd immunity

Recent reports have suggested that herd immunity may be achieved when as little as 50% of the population is immune. Herd immunity occurs when enough of the population is immune to the coronavirus, either via exposure or vaccine, for transmission to wane.

That's a welcome projection in light of earlier estimates that at least 70% of the population would need immunity before we'd be at "herd" level. 

Cameroon responds to Covid-19 crisis

Vaccine progress

Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, with more than 170 candidate vaccines now tracked by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Vaccines normally require years of testing and additional time to produce at scale, but scientists are hoping to develop a coronavirus vaccine within 12 to 18 months.

The Guardian brings you up to date with developments...

South African smokers empty shops of cigarettes after ban lifted

In the latest wave of panic-buying triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, South African smokers on Tuesday snapped up all the cigarettes they could lay their hands on after the lifting of a five-month ban designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. As part of a broader easing of restrictions, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday announced the end of a ban on sales of tobacco products and alcohol, effective from midnight on Monday.

Customers, wary of shortages or future bans, bought whatever they could on Tuesday, in scenes reminiscent of panic-buying of groceries at the start of the country's lockdown in March. 'People are not buying packets, they are buying cartons,' said an executive at a Pick N Pay Express store, who did not want to be named. 'I have a feeling that we may go back to level 3 (higher alert level), that is why I am buying a few packs,' a customer queuing at a tobacco store in Johannesburg's Melville suburb said, again asking not to be named.

Many shoppers faced empty shelves as companies struggled to fulfil restocking orders. In April, Ramaphosa said tobacco sales would be allowed but later changed his mind, citing concerns the sharing of cigarettes could spread the virus.

WHO points to under-40s for viral spread

According to WHO officials, in the month of August, the proportion of younger people among those infected had risen globally, putting at risk vulnerable sectors of the population worldwide, including the elderly and sick people in densely populated areas with weak health services.

“The epidemic is changing,” WHO Western Pacific regional director, Takeshi Kasai, told a virtual briefing. “People in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are increasingly driving the spread. Many are unaware they are infected.

“This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable,” he added.

Osun students give Nigeria Government ultimatum on schools reopening

Students from Osun State College of Education, Ila-Orangun, have given the Nigerian Government a one-month ultimatum to reopen schools for academic activities or mass action will be taken. They said tertiary schools in Nigeria must be reopened for academic activities on or before 24 September.

kenya

Dozens of Kenyan doctors strike over lack of PPE, delayed pay

Dozens of doctors in at least two of Kenya's 47 counties have gone on strike over delayed salaries, inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for handling Covid-19 patients and lack of medical insurance, a union official told Reuters.

Kenya has a total 30,636 confirmed infections, with 487 deaths, according to health ministry data. Healthcare workers say they have not been given adequate PPE, but the government has said it has distributed enough to go round. Doctors in western Homa Bay and central Embu had gone on strike over delayed or missing salary payments, lack of promotion, missing medical insurance and no hazard bonus, Allan Ochanji, vice chairman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, explained.

Doctors who contracted Covid-19 had been forced to pay out of pocket for their own treatment. "We have colleagues who have contracted Covid, they have been in isolation, they have had to foot the bills, despite the fact that they contracted Covid while on duty," Ochanji said.

Doctors in Nairobi, the nation's capital, warned on Friday they would go on strike within a week if their demands were not met. Nairobi has by far the largest number of coronavirus cases. Richard Muga, Homa Bay County health executive, confirmed that health workers' July pay had been delayed due to a dispute on how to allocate revenues to counties. He said the strike was illegal. 'We have tried to engage the health workers,' he said. 'They have not heeded our pleas.' 

outh Africa lifts some restrictions amid coronavirus pandemic A man pushes a shopping cart full of alcoholic beverages outside a supermarket amid the ongoing coronavirus emergency lockdown in Johannesburg, South Africa, 18 August 2020. After 144 days, the country moved to level 2 of the national lockdown, which allows the sale of alcohol and the opening of all retail outlets. (Abierto, Sudáfrica, Johannesburgo) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

South Africa lifts some restrictions amid coronavirus pandemic

A man pushes a shopping cart full of alcoholic beverages outside a supermarket amid the ongoing coronavirus emergency lockdown in Johannesburg, South Africa, 18 August 2020. After 144 days, the country moved to level 2 of the national lockdown, which allows the sale of alcohol and the opening of all retail outlets. (EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK)

Major cleaning program as Egypt prepares to open British museum

Coronavirus tracker Africa

WHO calls for end to 'vaccine nationalism'

Countries putting their own interests ahead of others in trying to ensure supplies of a possible coronavirus vaccine are making the pandemic worse, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday.

"(Acting) strategically and globally is actually in each country's national interest - no one is safe until everyone is safe," he told a virtual briefing calling for an end to 'vaccine nationalism'.

He said he had sent a letter to all WHO members asking them to join the multilateral COVAX vaccine effort. More than 21.9 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 772,647​ have died, according to a Reuters tally. (Text: Reuters)

Ghanaian president says airport re-opening hinges on Covid-19 testing capacity

President Nana Akufo-Addo said decisions on the re-opening of international flights will be tied to the ability of airport medical personnel to test all arriving passengers for coronavirus. Read more...

Developing the next generation of African leaders

Entrepreneur and leadership expert, FredSwaniker, spoke to Time about how a new generation of young African entrepreneurs are developing new and innovative enterprises in the face of the coronavirus pandemic...

Latest figures from Africa

All 55 African Union Member States have reported a total of 1,128,245 Covid-19 cases, with 25,884 related deaths. 846,330 have made a recovery from the disease. Africa accounts for 5% percent of the total global caseload.

Ghana: four regions currently have no active cases, says President

Four regions in Ghana are currently coronavirus free, according to President nana Akufo-Addo. "Currently, there are no coronavirus cases in the North East, Savanna, Upper East and Upper West regions. And I charge the residents to do everything possible to maintain that situation," he said. See more his address below...

Nigeria reports 417 new cases

Nigeria has reported 417 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours to takes its total caseload to 49,485. Almost half of those cases were reported in Lagos. Nigeria has recorded 977 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, while 36,834 people have recovered. Here is breakdown of those latest cases by state...

Pandemic now driven by 20s, 30s, 40s group, many asymptomatic - WHO

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it was concerned that the novel coronavirus spread was being driven by people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, many of which were unaware they were infected, posing a danger to vulnerable groups.

WHO officials said this month the proportion of younger people among those infected had risen globally, putting at risk vulnerable sectors of the population worldwide, including the elderly and sick people in densely populated areas with weak health services.

"The epidemic is changing," WHO Western Pacific regional director, Takeshi Kasai, told a virtual briefing. "People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread. Many are unaware they are infected. This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable." 

A surge in new cases has prompted some countries to re-impose curbs as companies race to find a vaccine for a virus that has battered economies, killed more than 770,000 people and infected nearly 22 million, according to a Reuters tally.

Surges were reported in countries that had appeared to have the virus under control, including Vietnam, which until recently went three months without domestic transmission due to its aggressive mitigation efforts.

"What we are observing is not simply a resurgence. We believe it's a signal that we have entered a new phase of pandemic in the Asia-Pacific," Kasai said.

He said countries were better able to reduce disruption to lives and economies by combining early detection and response to manage infections. While mutations had been observed, the WHO still saw the virus as "relatively stable", Kasai said. WHO also reminded drugmakers to follow all necessary research and development steps when creating a vaccine.

Socorro Escalante, its technical officer and medicines policy advisor, said the WHO was coordinating with Russia, which this month became the first country to grant regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine. "We hope to get the response in terms of the evidence of this new vaccine," Escalante said. (Text: Reuters)

South Africa

In pictures: Customers queue while waiting for the opening of a liquor shop in Lenasia, Johannesburg, on August 18, 2020. - South Africa lifted its COVID-19 coronavirus-linked ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. The virus-related ban on the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes has been controversial, and no other country has introduced both measures together. It came into effect when South Africa went into a strict nationwide lockdown on March 27, 2020 to stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

Nigeria to reopen for international flights on 29 August

Nigeria will reopen to international passenger flights from 29 August, the government has announced. 

Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika tweeted that the flights will restart at with the country’s major airports in the capital, Abuja, and the commercial hub, Lagos.

"Glad to announce the resumption of international flights from the 29th of August, 2020. Beginning with Lagos and Abuja as we did with the domestic flight resumption. Protocols and procedures will be announced in due course. We thank you for your patience," said Sirika.

Nigeria has seen its caseloads fall since peaks in late June but it remains the third-worst affected nation in Africa.

 

Restrictions easing in South Africa

CNN correspondent David McKenzie reports fromSouth Africa: "South Africa has relaxed its restrictions significantly today. After around five months of strict COVID-19 regulations. There is still significant community spread of the virus, but hospitals generally appear to be managing. Next few weeks will be key."

Second Novovax vaccine trial launched in South Africa

US drug maker Novovax has launched a second vaccine trial in South Africa in collaboration with WITS University, which is being led by Professor of Vaccinology Shabir Madhi.

Current studies have has shown that the vaccine can offer protection against Covid-19 infection in the nasal passages and lung disease to non-human primates. Prof. Madhi said there has been no shortage of volunteers, with 2,900 set to participate in the next phase of trials. 

 “We started our first vaccine study about 6 weeks ago and we have had an overwhelming response of people coming forward, volunteering and wanting to be part of the study. So fortunately we don’t have any shortage of volunteers," he said (via SABC News).

Good morning

Hello and welcome to AS' live coverage of the coronavirus in Africa. We'll be bringing you breaking news, reaction and the latest figures from the continent throughout the day, as well as the biggest coronavirus news from across the globe. 

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