The novel coronavirus has killed more than a million people globally, nearly ten months after the first case was reported in China, according to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins University virus tracker.
More than 35,000 people have so far died of the virus in Africa where over 1.4 million people have been infected, according to the latest data from the Africa CDC.
South Africa remains the most affected country with more than half of all the cases and deaths on the continent.
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More than 1.2 million people have so far recovered in Africa and the continent has, at least for now, not seen the gloomy predictions made early this year by international organizations, including the United Nations.
The United States has recorded the highest number of cases and fatalities in the world, with more than 7 million cases and over 205,000 deaths. Brazil is the second most affected countries in terms of deaths with more than 141,000 fatalities, followed by India with at least 95,000 deaths.
A University of Washington model which accurately pinpointed when the United States would cross the 200,000 mark now says at least 371,000 people would be dead from coronavirus by January 1. It is also predicting 2.5 million deaths worldwide by the same date.
Several countries are leading vaccine development including the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Russia. As of Monday, researchers were conducting clinical trials on humans for at least 40 vaccines, including two major ones in Africa.
In the United States, Johnson & Johnson announced last week that it would commence final-stage clinical trials of its vaccine on three continents, including in South Africa. There is also another vaccine developed by the biotech company Moderna in partnership with the National Institutes of Health which is also conducting final-stage trials on humans in the United States.
Health officials in the United States have said doses of successful vaccines would not be available to the general public until mid-2021.
Russia and China have already granted limited approvals for a handful of vaccines, but health experts have said they did not await the results of late-stage trials, approvals described as risky.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said $35 billion was needed to end the acute phase of COVID-19 pandemic in the world through the ACT-Accelerator initiative.
The ACT-Accelerator’s goal is to develop new tools, produce and deliver 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million diagnostic tests over the next year. Those vaccines would go mainly to medium and low-income countries.;
Speaking at his regular press conference in Geneva last Friday, the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said although $35 billion is a lot of money, it is what is spent on cigarettes every two weeks.
“US$35 billion is a lot of money. But in the context of arresting a global pandemic and supporting the global economic recovery, it’s a bargain.
“To put it in perspective, US$35 billion is less than 1% of what G20 governments have already committed to domestic economic stimulus packages. Or to put it another way, it’s roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every 2 weeks,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He said of the US$35 billion, US$15 billion is needed immediately to fund research and development, scale up manufacturing, secure procurement and strengthen delivery systems.
Launched on April 24, 2020, the ACT-Accelerator combines public and private sector expertise and institutions from around the world to accelerate the development, regulatory approval, scale-up, delivery and equitable allocation of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.
The WHO argues that with the largest portfolio of COVID-19 tools in the world, investing in the ACT-Accelerator increases the probability of being able to access the “winning candidate” and hedges the risk that countries that have already entered individual bilateral agreements end up with products that are not viable.
Also, a new global partnership was announced on Monday to make available affordable and high-quality COVID-19 antigen rapid tests for low and middle-income countries The announcement was made by the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
Organizations involved in the milestone agreement include the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the Global Fund, Unitaid, and the World Health Organization (WHO).