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Natural Immunity less powerful against new Omicron strains in South Africa as Fifth Wave looms

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Africa, May 19, 2022 – South Africa is undergoing a massive covid surge with cases jumping by 50 percent in just 24 hours on May 5th. 9,757 new cases were reported on the 5th, 3,587 more positive results than the 6,170 recorded the day before.  For context, on April 5th, a month earlier 1538 new infections were recorded.

Since that 50 percent increase on May 5th daily new infections have consistently been above 2,900 reaching as high as 10,017 on May 11th. South Africa recorded over 86,000 new cases and over 550 deaths between May 5th and 16th in a time frame of less than 2 weeks.

Vaccine uptake in South Africa is below slightly above 50 percent with only 35 million fully vaccinated individuals in a population of more than 59 million.

Shabir Mahdi, a scientist leading vaccine trials in the country had suggested that natural immunity was what was helping with lower hospitalizations when omicron initially appeared in the country.

This latest increase however, is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub variants, which may be more adept at evading natural immunity.

In a study carried out by the Africa Health Research Institute blood samples from people infected with omicron but unvaccinated, when tested against BA.4 and BA.5, neutralizing antibodies which fight Covid were eight times lower. In people who contracted omicron and were vaccinated it was three times lower.

The study has not yet been peer reviewed but the researchers say, “The low absolute neutralization levels for BA.4 and BA.5, particularly in the unvaccinated group, are unlikely to protect well against symptomatic infection,”

“This may indicate that… BA.4 and BA.5 have potential to result in a new infection wave.”

That study was carried out back in January when the variants were first detected.

When the Omicron fueled fourth wave hit South Africa in 2021 cases in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe quickly followed. BA.4 and .5 have been detected in the US, Canada, China and parts of Europe.

On May 12th the BA.4 and.5 variants were both upgraded to variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control.

The ECDC says variants of concern are ones for which, “clear evidence is available indicating a significant impact on transmissibility, severity and/or immunity that is likely to have an impact on the epidemiological situation in the EU/EEA.”

The possible spike in cases comes one year and five months since the first COVID jabs in the world were administered in the UK and the US,  one year and four months since the first vaccine was administered in the Turks and Caicos.

Though boosters have been available in many countries worldwide booster campaigns have not been as effective as initial vaccination campaigns. Without the stretched protection of boosters many more people may remain vulnerable to this building wave of BA.4 or BA.5 vaccines.

Africa

Putin in pursuit of Africa labelled ‘opportunistic’ and ‘calculating’

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Africa, October 28, 2022 – Vladimir Putin, president of Russia says he is seeking closer ties with African countries according to Russian state controlled media and the push seems to be working.

TASS says, in a recent meeting with Umaro Sissoco Embalo, Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Putin described the trade volume between ECOWAS and Russia as “rather hefty” citing the regions 400 million inhabitants.

The renewed and ‘up-scaled’ interest in Africa comes as the Kremlin is frozen out of Western relations because of the Ukraine invasion.  Russia now has significant animosity against Britain, the EU and the United States which is certainly mutual.

“We hope that a significant contribution will be made to the development of relations—with members of the organization, and the entire African continent in general during your presidency in ECOWAS,” Putin told Embalo.

Earlier this year several African countries remained neutral to the war in Ukraine.  In the UN General Assembly’s vote to suspend Russia’s membership on the Human Rights Council of the 54 African states in the UN only 10 voted in favor of the resolution, nine openly opposed, and 35 abstained or refused to turn up.

Despite worldwide condemnation of the atrocities committed in Ukraine, Europe’s long and sordid history of African exploitation is now working to Putin’s advantage.  Many criticisms of African nations’ reluctance to comment on the invasion are met on social media by lashing criticisms on Europe’s own sins committed on the continent.  In addition Russia is still recognized in countries like South Africa for their help in overturning European regimes like apartheid.

Germany’s embassy to South Africa criticized Russia for thanking SA for remaining neutral back in March.

“Sorry, but we can’t stay silent on this one, it’s just far too cynical.  What Russia is doing in Ukraine is slaughtering innocent children, women and men for its own gain.  It’s definitely not “fighting Nazism”. Shame on anyone who’s falling for this…” the Embassy said.

Replies ranged from: “How far are you with paying reparations to Namibian people?” to “Why is the Federal Republic of Germany taking more action against the invasion of Ukraine then it did against the invasion of Iraq?”

And while President Joe Biden recently hosted South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in talks at the White House regarding his neutral stance on Russia and other issues, so far South Africa and the rest of the continent for the most part has stuck to its guns.

The issue is a polarizing one though, as at the same time thousands of citizens across Africa have openly disagreed with the neutral lot cast by their countries.

Also taken into account is the fact that the Russian war has pushed several African countries further into famine faster than expected thanks to the rising prices of staples like grain.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies describes the Russian foray into the continent as:

“Expanding geo-political influence through low-cost ventures that hold economic windfalls for Moscow and President Vladimir Putin’s close associates. In this way, Russia’s strategy in Africa is both opportunistic and calculating.”

Whatever the motive, the strategy to ‘make nice’ with the continent seems to be progressing for Putin as his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov just finished a tour where he was welcomed into at least four nations to further diplomatic relations.

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Africa

768 Million People and their Homelands in jeopardy says Ecological Threat Report

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Africa, October 28, 2022 – A great portion of Sub-Saharan Africa may become completely unsustainable in just 28 years. This prognosis is according to the Institute for Economics and Peace in their most recent Ecological Threat Report.

The Institute assesses major ecological threats of food risk, water risk, rapid population growth, temperature anomalies and natural disasters and rates countries on their Ecological Threat Resistance (ETR)

This year it identified 27 ‘hotspot countries’ across the globe that face ‘catastrophic ecological threat with extremely low societal resilience.’ It puts 768 million people at serious risk.

None of the countries identified are located in Europe or North America which have the highest ETR, instead the victims mainly spread across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and South Asia.

Seven of the eight of the most affected countries are in SSA., which also has the highest rate of food insecurity.

“Of the 52 Sub-Saharan African countries, 37 recorded an extremely high level of food insecurity in the ETR,” said the report which was published on October 19.

Extreme drought and extreme floods in the past year have caused record lows in food production with the Red Cross warning that casualties could become heavy if residents remain without food.

In addition mass migration and natural disasters will also put populations in sub-Saharan Africa at serious risk.

In order to slow the disastrous process, countries will have to fix the high rates of violence, air pollution and high birth rate, even as climate change ravages their shoes.

Only one Caribbean country, Haiti, was listed on the 27 most at risk countries.

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Africa

Unrelenting floods in Nigeria; 1.4 Million homeless and 500 dead

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Nigeria, October 13, 2022 – Seventy-six people drowned on Friday after their boat flipped as they tried to escape floodwaters in Nigeria.  Like Pakistan, Nigeria has been pounded by an overactive Monsoon season this year.

The boat was traveling through Anambra, one of the worst affected states which also includes Kogi, Lokoja , when it overturned.   Aerial response has been triggered and helicopters are out looking for other trapped residents according to The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).  More than 1.4 million people have been displaced and just over 500 have been killed.

NEMA representative Thickman Tanimu, told NEWS Agency of Nigeria, “Assessment teams observed that the flood has submerged houses, farmlands, schools, health centres, Police Stations, Churches and other critical infrastructure— we did the assessment tour with a boat because the access roads to the communities have been submerged by flood water” He said.

The floodwaters have brought down buildings crushing families and sweeping away others. Nigeria’s monsoon season is set to end in October hopefully bringing an end to the rain.

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