Southern African states struggle with Covid, vaccine arrives in South Africa

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Although South Africa has eased some preventative Covid-19 restrictions, neighbouring eSwatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, has run out of body bags and is having a hard time coping with the remains of pandemic victims.

Corpses were wrapped in bedsheets for two weeks until body bags were finally procured after complaints by hospital staff who were worried about a heightened risk of contracting coronavirus.

A source at Good Shepherd hospital in Siteki quoted by The Times of Swaziland paper said a health worker in the hospital died after being exposed to the virus.

“She died while also admitted to the facility after contracting the virus. It is so discouraging because she complained that the shortage of personal protective equipment was a major issue for health workers,” according to the source, who did not want to be named.

According to the last tally reported by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on 31 January, eSwatini currently has 15,283 cases and 538 deaths in a country of 1.1 million.

Cases have risen steeply since late December.

In an effort to ease the situation and prevent the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, the UK sent a number of medical professionals in late January to help with the Covid-19 situation.

“The team of 11, which includes 4 British medics… will provide urgent training and use their specialist expertise to provide clinical supervision to those treating patients critically ill with COVID-19,” according to a British government statement.

Mozambique

The rise of Covid-19 deaths in Mozambique is disconcerting for the country’s health ministry, which recorded its worst month in January.

Mozambique recorded 210 deaths from Covid-19 in January, its worst month since the pandemic started, according to the health ministry.

The number is more than half of the 367 deaths recorded from the disease.

In January alone, 20,012 cases were recorded, more than half of the total of 35,833, according to Africa CDC.

South Africa

South Africa received its first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. Its arrival, which was announced to great fanfare on South African television on Monday, as broadcasters followed the airplane bringing the doses as it landed at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg.

Also on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a rollback of some stricter preventative Covid-19 measures, allowing for beaches to be reopened, as well as the sale of alcohol.

The country is still on Code 3 restrictions, but the president has also allowed religious gatherings with limited numbers of people.

Ramaphosa also announced that the country had its lowest number of coronavirus daily infections since the beginning of December 2020.

South Africa is allegedly the origin of one of the new highly infectious variants, and many countries have forbidden travel from South Africa in order to prevent the spread of the virus. This variant is also reportedly more resistant to vaccines.

The government says South Africa’s 1.25 million health workers will have priority in getting the vaccine.

Africa CDC announced last month that South Africa will receive more than 50 million doses.