Host of the African Cup of Nations (CAF), Cameroon secured its place in the round of 16 with the 4-1 result against Ethiopia in the fifth (13), opening the second round of the championship. It was the second home win for the host, who beat Burkina Faso in the tournament opener 2-1.
The home team’s good results come despite the absence of five players, who tested positive for covid-19 days before the start of the event.
Postponed last year for 12 months precisely because of the pandemic, the Cup was inaugurated with the absence of players on the field, for testing positive or having had contact with people with covid-19.
In addition to the host team, teams from Senegal, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso were affected by the pandemic, with positive cases of covid-19, delays in the arrival trip to Cameroon, cancellation of preparation matches and players in isolation.
Classified as a concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November last year, the novel coronavirus’s omicron variant causes new spikes of covid-19 worldwide, with a current moving average in Europe of 1.15 million daily cases. confirmed, an increase of 284% since November 2020.
North America is also heavily impacted, with a moving average of 878,000 daily cases, an increase of 880%. In Asia, the average number of daily cases is 380,000; 236 thousand in South America; 109 thousand in Oceania; and 39 thousand in Africa.
The extremely unequal access to immunizations was something that the WHO director-general himself called “moral shame” on the day the pandemic entered its third year, in December. Of the 9 billion vaccines distributed worldwide, only 3.6% were given in Africa, with about 200 million vaccinated against the disease.
according to Our World in Data, about 50.4% of the world population has already been vaccinated, with only 15% in Africa: about 209 million people. Adding up the vaccination rates, the 54 countries on the continent, together, do not exceed the numbers of the United States (274 million people vaccinated).
Vaccine for few
In this context, the championship takes place in one of the countries in the world with the lowest vaccination rates against covid-19, illustrating the situation of health exclusion throughout the African continent.
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For example, in Cameroon, only 3% of the country’s population has been immunized. Of this percentage, 2.4% completed the protocol vaccination schedule (in general, two doses). In comparison, its neighboring countries, in general, have higher vaccination rates, as is the case of Nigeria (5%), Congo (12%) and Gabon (17%).
The most vaccinated country on the continent is currently Egypt, where the first case of covid-19 was identified in the region. Today, 34% of the Egyptian population is immunized, totaling 35 million people.
CAF’s host country has just over a million doses administered, 109,666 infections and 1,853 deaths from the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to monitoring carried out by the international news agency Reuters, Cameroon is one of the countries that presents levels farthest from the last peak recorded on the continent. In this case, the last peak was recorded at the beginning of April last year, when the country surpassed the average of 2 thousand confirmed daily cases of covid. Currently, it only reaches 3% of this scenario, with an average of 42 daily infections.
In the graph below, it is possible to observe the peak of covid-19 cases on the continent since the identification of the new variant omicron, in November, which led to the highest level of average confirmed cases per million inhabitants (the peak, until the closing this report, was on January 10, with 33.53 confirmed cases per million).
Deaths increase on the African continent, however, they are far from previous peaks, as in January and August of last year. Currently, the indices reveal an average of 0.22 confirmed deaths per million inhabitants. This same indicator rises to 3.91 in Europe and 3.32 in North America, regions that are already fulfilling the first or second booster dose of the covid-19 vaccine.
The problem of low vaccination in Africa
Despite the low numbers of deaths and cases in relation to other continents, the problem of low vaccination in African countries is not only geopolitical, but also health at a global level. The persistence of virus circulation in non-immunized populations favors the emergence of new variants, as the director general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, highlighted this year.
“The essence of the disparity is that some countries are applying the fourth dose of the vaccine while others do not even have the minimum supplies to vaccinate their health workers and people at risk. Booster vaccines in a few countries will not end the pandemic while billions remain unprotected.” At the current rate, Africa could only vaccinate 70% of its population in 2024.
The organization drew attention to the outcome of 2021, a far cry from the goal of vaccinating at least 20% of each country by the end of 2021. At the end of last year, the WHO highlighted that only 3% of the 8 million vaccines administered in the world were applied in African countries.
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The Covax mechanism, created by the organization to serve precisely the poorest countries in terms of access to vaccines during the pandemic, is still ineffective in terms of the volume and time required to cover the populations of countries that need doses. The organization itself points out that the priority for bilateral agreements for the purchase of vaccines and the increase in production are among the main reasons for the delay.
For 2022, the WHO has set the goal of distributing 2 billion doses in the first quarter. To this end, it once again requests the support of donors and pharmaceutical companies and that they avoid delays to ensure the achievement of the objective for the coming months.
Sports in the pandemic
Worldwide, more common sanitary measures have restricted the capacity limit of stadiums around the world. In February, the Beijing Winter Olympics will have closed circuits due to the increase in cases in China. The International Olympic Committee has determined that athletes, the media and technical teams must be tested for Covid-19 daily during the event.
European football clubs also report positive cases for covid-19 daily. In the first week of the year, it was the turn of Argentine star Lionel Messi, with three other Paris Saint-Germain teammates: defender Juan Bernat, midfielder Nathan Bitumazala and goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
In Brazil, just this week, players from several teams tested positive for the disease and were removed, such as Botafogo, São Paulo, Chapecoense, Fortaleza, Palmeiras and Corinthians. In the State of São Paulo, Governor João Doria announced that the Campeonato Paulista will have stadium occupancy limited to 70%.
In order to avoid the total stoppage of sporting events, the main health measure remains the limitation of public. In the African Cup, stadium capacity was reduced to 60% for matches, with the exception of the matches of the host team, Cameroon, with 80% capacity in the stands.
Editing: Arturo Hartmann