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Omicron COVID-19: AfDB postpones 2021 Africa Investment Forum

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.As Ayade suspends Calabar carnival

.China to send 1bn vaccine, 1,500 medical experts to Africa

.Biontech announces development of adapted vaccine for variant

The Africa Development Bank has postponed the 2021 Africa Investment Forum due to the recent outbreak of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

 

The AfDB made the announcement in a statement on its website on Monday.

 

The event which was scheduled to hold from December 1 -3, 2021, and hosted by the Ivory Coast Government in Abidjan, the country’s economic capital, has now been postponed until further notice.

 

In the statement, the AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, noted that the AIF presented the opportunity for countries and investors to seek business opportunities.

 

He, however, stated that the health and safety of attendees was of the utmost importance.

 

He said, “The Africa Investment Forum is the premier investment marketplace for Africa. Several billion dollars of investment projects were scheduled for investment board rooms with project sponsors and investors at this edition of the Africa Investment Forum.

 

“Unfortunately, with rising global travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 Omicron variant, and heightened concerns for health and safety, it is necessary, regrettably, to postpone the event. The health and safety of everyone comes first.”

 

In the same vein Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River has  also, suspended the 2021 annual Calabar carnival due to insecurity and the outbreak of Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Mr Linus Obogo, Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Ayade, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Calabar.

Obogo told NAN the decision to suspend the annual festival was reached at a meeting with the governor, the State Executive Council members and stakeholders of the carnival.

According to him, the decision to suspend the annual festival was unanimous.

“The gathering was to unveil the theme of this year’s carnival but based on the emergence of the new variant called omicron and the advice by health experts that it kills faster than other variant, the governor then puts it before the stakeholders and it was unanimously agreed that the carnival be suspended.

“The carnival band leaders and other stakeholders agreed that for the purpose of public health and safety, the carnival be suspended.

“Also, there is an emerging security report which indicates that the event may be taken over by some hoodlums.

“To avoid all of these from happening, it was advised that the carnival be suspended so that people are not caught unawares,” Obogo said.

Recall that the State Commissioner for Tourism and Culture, Mr Eric Anderson, on Nov. 28 told NAN that the annual festival would be held inside the U.J Esuene Sport Stadium due to COVID-19.

Anderson told NAN that the stadium would help to control the crowd and space the seating arrangement for people to watch the live show.

World races to untangle Omicron’s secrets as more cases pop up

 

Also, Fears of the latest coronavirus variant consumed the world on Monday, with cases popping up in more countries while experts sought to assess the true nature of the threat.

 

Dubbed Omicron, there are worries that it could be more contagious and make vaccines less effective.

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) quickly named it a variant of concern and, said the global risk from the variant was ‘very high.’

 

Researchers in South Africa announced its discovery last week, which resulted in multiple countries slamming the door shut to travel to that region.

 

That has sparked recriminations because there was no proof that the virus first developed there.

 

South African researchers said on Monday that they first became aware of the new virus due to work conducted in Botswana.

 

Anne von Gottberg of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said researchers there uploaded the data sequence onto a global website, which gave the first hints of a new version of the virus with multiple mutations, the trait that has made so many scientists so worried.

 

“It’s the information together that was independently detected and uploaded that made us all speak altogether,” she said.

 

The revelation also helped explain why the region was seeing such a rapid increase in case counts after a period of relative calm.

 

When it first announced the find last week, Botswana’s Health Ministry noted that the first cases noticed were among a group of four foreign diplomats.

 

Their nationality or nationalities had not been revealed.

 

With worries growing that Omicron’s spread will worsen the situation in countries already fighting off winter-fuelled waves of the disease or eliminate hard fought for gains in countries that have controlled the virus’ spread.

 

Leaders of the G7 countries, a club of industrialised nations, were urged to meet for an emergency summit on the matter.

 

Whatever they do, it seems it will be too late to stop the disease’s spread.

 

Countries like Austria and the Czech Republic confirmed their first cases of Omicron on Monday, the latest on a long list, while multiple others added to their counts.

 

In South Africa, virologist Salim Abdool Karim estimated there could be 10,000 new coronavirus cases by the end of the week.

 

And in spite of some calls that travel restrictions were unhelpful or targeting the wrong countries, they continued to crop up. For example, Japan on Monday said it would ban all new foreign arrivals from Tuesday, the Kyodo news agency reported.

 

Japan’s border restrictions had only been eased in early November, allowing students, business people and technical interns into the country as long as their sponsors took on the responsibility to monitor their movements, Kyodo reported.

 

Tokyo had already suspended entry for foreigners who had recently been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia or Zimbabwe.

 

Meanwhile, Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, told African leaders in a videoconference that his country was prepared to direct 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to the continent, 600 million doses as donations, while another 400 million would be produced by joint undertakings.

 

The goal is to get African vaccination rates higher, said Xi, noting an African Union goal of getting 60 per cent of the population vaccinated this year, even though the vaccination rate is in single digits in large areas of the continent.

To help more, China is prepared to send 1,500 medical experts to help in Africa.

 

In a related development, The German vaccine manufacturer, Biontech, has announced that it is developing an adapted vaccine.

 

The vaccine is to serve as a precautionary measure while simultaneously carrying out research on the nature of the new Omicron variant of the Coronavirus.

 

“To avoid wasting time, we are tackling these two tasks in parallel until the data is available and we have more information on whether the vaccine needs to be adapted or not,’’ a Biontech spokeswoman told dpa on Monday.

 

The two undertakings even partially coincide, according to Biontech, “we immediately began studies on the Omicron variant,’’ the company said.

 

“We have also taken initial steps to develop a potential new vaccine, which overlap with the laboratory tests,’’ the company added.

 

The laboratory tests were necessary to assess whether a new vaccine is necessary or not.

 

The process involves serum from vaccinated individuals being exposed to the spike protein of the variant to examine how it reacts.

 

“The goal of this approach is to move quickly in development should a variant-specific vaccine be required,’’ the company said.

 

Biontech said on Friday earlier said that the new variant was significantly different from previously observed variants because it had additional mutations on the spike protein.

 

Data from laboratory tests now underway would soon indicate whether an adjustment to the vaccine would be needed, if this variant spreads internationally, it said.

 

The company expects to have initial findings by the end of next week.

 

Biontech said it had for months been making preparations alongside its U.S. partner Pfizer, to adapt the existing vaccine within six weeks should a new variant of the virus quickly go global.

 

The goal of the preparations was to deliver the first batches of any adapted vaccine within 100 days.

 

Vaccines based on the messenger molecule mRNA, such as those produced by Biontech or Moderna, are quicker to produce than conventional vaccines as only the blueprint needs to be produced, rather than the antigen itself.

 

African countries should not be penalized for Omicron COVID-19 variant – Akinwumi Adesina

 

Meanwhile, The President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has said that African countries should not be penalised for the Omicron COVID-19 variants and other mutations across the world.

 

 

 

Adesina said this in a tweet on Sunday, following the travel ban imposed on Southern African countries by the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and some Asian countries as part of an emergency response to the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19, first detected in South Africa.

 

 

 

Adesina stated that Africa is not the source of COVID-19 which was first discovered in Wuhan, China, some two years ago.

 

His tweets read, “Africa should not be labelled and penalized for COVID-19 variants and mutations that occur randomly elsewhere in the world. Africa is not the source of COVID-19.

 

Adesina also campaigned for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa and other parts of the world even as he encouraged African nations to start manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccines.

 

“There must be global justice, equity and fairness in access to vaccines. Global vaccine supply system has under served Africa. Protecting one’s home alone in the midst of a forest fire does not work. Put out the forest fire.

 

“Africa must accelerate the manufacturing of its own vaccines and set up its own ‘healthcare security defence system’. Africa must no longer outsource health security of its 1.8 billion people to the benevolence of others,” his tweet read.

 

Recall that the World Health Organisation, WHO had on Friday declared the new COVID-19 strain first discovered in South Africa to be a variant of concern and renamed it Omicron.

China’s pandemic response tactics still effective for Omicron – Experts

China’s tactics for preventing COVID-19 case import and domestic resurgence of COVID-19 remains effective for the Omicron variant of the virus, medical experts said on Monday.

 

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has established a special nucleic acid testing method targeting the new variant and continues to monitor the genome sequence of potential imported infections, they told a press conference held by the National Health Commission.

 

Faced with the new variant, experts have also called on members of the public, including those who were fully vaccinated, to wear face masks in public venues and during transit.

 

It also advised that people should implement self-monitoring of their health, and reduce non-essential inbound and outbound travel.

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