The defining mark of COVID-19 is a lack of sharing of data, information, personal protective equipment, vaccines and other life-saving tools, the head of World Health Organization said.

“This inequity is fueling a two-track pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus told the World Local Production Forum, which seeks to enhance access to medicines and health technologies.

Globally, newly reported cases of COVID-19 have declined for eight straight weeks, and deaths fell for seven weeks.

“This is good. But new infections and deaths remain high globally,” said Tedros.

Last week, more than 2.5 million cases and 64,000 deaths were reported.

“In Africa, the number of cases and deaths increased by almost 40% in the past week,” said the WHO chief.

“While a handful of countries have high vaccination rates and are now seeing lower hospitalizations, other countries in Africa and Asia are now facing steep epidemics,” he added.

Later, speaking at a webinar, Tedros said the health body and its COVAX partners are working with a South African consortium to establish its first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.

The consortium has South African companies such as Biovac and Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities, and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tedros added.

“This is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self-determination,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the webinar.

In a video message, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “I am proud for Biovac and our South African partners to have been selected by WHO, as France has been supporting them for years.”

Tedros had earlier told the World Local Production Forum, which seeks to enhance access to medicines and health technologies, that the pandemic had highlighted global inequalities.

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