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Coronavirus

Africa CDC Chief Watches India Surge with Alarm

NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa’s top public health official says the continent is “watching with total disbelief” what is happening in India as it struggles with a devastating resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong warned that the African continent, which has roughly the same population as India and fragile health care systems, “must be very, very prepared” because it could see the same scenario now unfolding in the South Asian country.

“We need to regroup urgently,” Nkengasong told reporters Thursday.

“We do not have enough health care workers. We do not have enough oxygen,” he said.

Nkengasong also urged African nations to prevent mass gatherings including political rallies.

Africa’s vaccine situation is also closely linked to India, the source of the AstraZeneca vaccines distributed by the global COVAX project to get doses to low- and middle-income countries.

The vaccine export ban India adopted while coping with devastating domestic outbreaks “has severely impacted the predictability of the rollout of vaccination programs and will continue to do so for the coming weeks and perhaps months,” Nkengasong said, adding that if India can’t meet its own needs he doesn’t know how it can export doses to Africa.

Just 17 million vaccine doses have been administered across the African continent, he said, for a population of some 1.3 billion.

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