Africa Eradicates Wild Poliovirus

Africa has been declared free from wild poliovirus. The milestone comes four years after Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – recorded its final case of wild poliovirus.

“Rotary International and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) are proud to announce a historic public health achievement as the World Health Organization’s African region is now certified wild poliovirus-free,” said Rotary International President Holger Knaack.

Over the course of the effort, nine billion dosages of oral polio vaccine were administered by the independent body and, hundreds of millions of children were immunised.

Hence, 1.8 million cases of wild poliovirus were averted throughout the region.

“In the face of a pandemic, the world has had very little good news to celebrate in global health this year and the challenges ahead are formidable,” said Knaack.

The road to the African region’s wild poliovirus-free certification has been paved by the dedication of health workers — mainly women, who reached children with the polio vaccine; those who found solutions for reaching children in regions rife with conflict and insecurity; those leading surveillance activities to test cases of paralysis and check sewage for the virus, and the leadership of all 47 countries in the African region.

“We have been painstakingly working toward this day since 1996, when Rotary and its GPEI partners first joined with Nelson Mandela to mobilize leaders across the continent to commit to reaching every child with the polio vaccine,” said Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee.

Funsho added: “We still have important work to do, but this achievement shows that with collaboration, and political and financial support, the global eradication of polio is possible.”

Deepak Kapur, Chairman, Rotary International’s India National PolioPlus Committee, added: “With this announcement, five out of the six World Health Organization (WHO) regions are now wild polio-free, serving as much-needed encouragement for the hundreds of thousands of frontline health workers who have been fighting tirelessly to keep children worldwide safe and immunized against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Tourism rebounds

South Africa’s tourism sector has witnessed a rebound since the country further eased its Covid-19 lockdown restrictions last week.

In the past few days, locals have frequented tourist destinations, including national parks, theme parks, amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centres, zoos, aquariums, science centres, nature and game reserves, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

The South African National Parks (SANParks) has reported a massive rush in bookings, causing its website to crash last week.

Other travel agencies have also seen an increased volume of hotel reservations.

Cape Town, March. 30 (Xinhua) — Tourists take pictures of an African penguin at the Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay, Western Cape province, South Africa, March 30, 2019. (Xinhua/Chen Cheng/IANS)

On August 18, South Africa eased the lockdown restrictions from level three to two, under which citizens can move across provincial borders for all purposes, including leisure.

International tourism, however, is still prohibited.

The tourism sector was shut down completely on March 27 when the lockdown was enforced to curb the spread of the virus.

With the re-opening of tourism, the government expects to forge a new path toward recovery as many people in the sector return to work to provide for their families following months of hardship, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said.

(Photo by Steven Song/Xinhua/IANS)

“We encourage South Africans to not only support the tourism sector to preserve the business and the jobs but also to enjoy their beautiful country after months of being in their homes,” Kubayi-Ngubane said while issuing directives for the re-opening of the tourism sector.

Income for the tourist accommodation industry fell 98 per cent in May 2020 compared with same month last year, according to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.

The tourism sector lost more than 68 billion rand ($4 billion) due to the national lockdown, the TBCSA said.

About 600,000 direct tourism jobs will be lost in 2020 due to the pandemic, the council said.

As of Monday, the total number of coronavirus cases in South Africa stood at 609,773, the fifth highest in the world, while the death toll increased to 13,059.