Severe lockdowns are no longer the best way to contain COVID-19, Africa’s top public health official said on Thursday as parts of the continent continue to battle fresh waves of infection.
“The period where we are using severe lockdowns as a tool is over. We should actually be looking at how we use public health and social measures more carefully and in a balanced way as the vaccination increases,” Reuters quotes John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
The continent has largely adapted to other ways to stop further infections, having spent months in lockdowns between March 2020 and early 2021.
Kenya, which is one of the countries that had imposed a partial lockdown curbing entry into and exit from regions considered to be red zones, lifted the months-long restriction in May 2021.
The South African government, on the other hand, did not reintroduce a strict lockdown in November-December when it experienced a spike in new infections amid the Omicron outbreak.
Nkengasong however expressed worry that the slow pace of vaccination on the continent could see COVID-19 become endemic.
Only seven countries achieved the World Health Organization (WHO) target of fully vaccinating at least 40 per cent of their populations by end 2021.
Continentally, less than 10 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Unless … by the end of this year the continent actually scales up its vaccination to above 70 per cent or 80 per cent, my worry is that we might … be into a scenario where COVID-19 becomes endemic,” he said.
So far, Africa has reported 9,756,457 COVID-19 infections with 228,856 fatalities, according to the latest data from the Africa CDC.