As the rate of Covid's spread decreases after the second wave, and the world continues to slowly return to old ways of life and comfort, another COVID variant emerges to threaten us once again. The lethality or transmissibility of the new variant, B.1.1.529, called Omicron, is yet to be determined. Current information suggests that the virus, which has more survival rates than Beta and Delta variants, can be detected by PCR testing. The South African doctor, who treated about 30 patients for ten days, said that the symptoms of the new disease were the same as those of the old variants, with minor muscle aches, sore throats, and dry coughs. Meanwhile, the world has been defending itself with the old precautions since the strain was confirmed on November 25th. All have closed borders and are closely monitoring and quarantining arriving foreigners, especially those from confirmed cases, including South Africa.
Although the cause and the most appropriate treatment for Covid-19 have not yet been identified, the only relief of the world is having developed vaccines. The world has adopted it as the best defence available. However, many countries around the world have not been able to make the vaccine itself available to the population. In times of disaster, it is the norm in the world for people and governments to unite setting aside spite and hatred. The world saw this even when Covid erupted into a pandemic. Later, however, as the spread of the disease and the resulting devastation intensified, many succumbed to selfishness and set aside humanitarian values. What was seen thereafter was the rights to develop the vaccine reaching as far as preventing others from doing so.
Omicron cases have been reported not only in southern African countries but also in European countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and the United Kingdom, and in Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Israel. However, as soon as the news of the disease broke, the European Union, Britain imposed travel bans on South Africa and a few other countries in the region, and the rest of the world followed suit. South Africa is one of the countries that used the Covid period as a shield to implement its own political agenda. Not only does the country lack an accurate and transparent policy on vaccination, which lags far behind, but the political crisis continues to plague people even as the coronavirus hit hard, with 29 lakh cases and 89,800 reported deaths. Home ministers have been ousted twice in six months. In South Africa, where tourism is the mainstay, travel bans have led to massive unemployment and famine. In 2020, the tourism industry lost $ 10 billion. Only 35 % of adults get the first shot. The reason for this sobering statistic is the delay in vaccination and the public hesitancy to it.
But the fact is that this cannot be blamed on African countries. The racism faced by African and Third World countries from the capitalist West is also a major factor. AstraZeneca was the first vaccine to reach Africa. However, as its problems were pointed out by Pfizer and the European Union came out against it, people generally became averse to vaccination. In the meantime, things got out of hand with the advent of the Beta variant. The African Union did not receive the nearly 400 million vaccines requested by Johnson & Johnson through Aspin Pharma Care in South Africa. It was all diverted to Europe and North America. Last August, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched Cape Town-based biotech company Afrigen to become the first global vaccine manufacturing hub to produce mRNA vaccines, but Moderna and Pfizer shared the expertise. Even after all this, over the past year, hundreds of countries, including South Africa and India, have called for the immediate removal of intellectual property rights over technologies to end the epidemic. Then countries will be able to produce enough vaccines. But Britain and the European Union have also invested in it. It is not enough to develop a vaccine to escape the malady, it is also an imperative to put an end to the racism and malice of the capitalist countries and the multinational corporations that support them. While COVID rages unabated across the world, we should not be blaming the countries that could not ward off the virus for discovering the emergence of new variants, or falling victims to them, but cure the disease of grudge among the capitalist, imperialist and racist governments that are pushing them into that helplessness.