The heads of the world health, intellectual property, and global trade bodies on Thursday agreed on intensified cooperation in support of access to medical technologies worldwide to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Health Organization’s (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus, World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Daren Tang and World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said they want to map out further collaboration to tackle the pandemic.

“We will implement a joint platform for tripartite technical assistance to countries relating to their needs for Covid-19 medical technologies,” they said in a joint statement.

The statement said that they are “acutely conscious of our shared responsibility to communities across the world as they confront a health crisis of unprecedented severity and scale.”

“We pledged to bring the full extent of the expertise and resources of our respective institutions to bear in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and improving the health and well-being of all people, everywhere around the globe,” it added.

The agency heads said they will set up workshops to strengthen countries’ abilities to deal with data.

Surging 3rd wave in Africa

Shortly after their statement, WHO said Africa is facing a fast-surging third wave of the pandemic.

“The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa.

Cases in Africa have risen for five consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave on May 3.

As of June 20, day 48 into the new wave, Africa had recorded around 474,000 new cases, a 21% increase compared with the first 48 days of the second wave.

“Africa can still blunt the impact of these fast-rising infections, but the window of opportunity is closing. Everyone everywhere can do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission,” Moeti said.

In the next six months, WHO wants an eight- to ten-fold increase in the samples sequenced each month in southern African countries.

The COVID-19 upsurge comes as the vaccine supply crunch persists. Eighteen African countries have used over 80% of their COVAX vaccine supplies, with eight having exhausted their stocks. Twenty-nine countries have administered over 50% of their supplies, said the WHO.

Just over 1% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.

Globally, around 2.7 billion doses were administered, of which just under 1.5% were in Africa.

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