Africa CDC urges strong COVID-19 prevention measures amid emergence of new variant

South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers. /VCG

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Friday urged African health authorities to intensify COVID-19 prevention measures amid the emergence of a new variant.

The Africa CDC made the call a day after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa announced the detection of a new variant, B.1.1.529, of the SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization on Friday classified it as a “Variant of Concern.”

“National health authorities across the continent should reinforce public health and social measures and accelerate immunization of their populations, prioritizing high-risk groups, ahead of upcoming new waves of COVID-19 infections,” the agency said in a statement.

It called on African countries to expedite COVID-19 vaccination drive to halt the spread of the virus, saying “vaccines remain a key tool to prevent severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 infection.”

The agency underscored the need to reinforce timely genomic surveillance through coordination with national and regional pathogen genomics laboratories.

As of Saturday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has reached 8,616,912 with 222,301 deaths and 8,064,499 recoveries, according to the agency.