Guinea Reverses Decision to Pull Out of Tokyo Olympics

The West African country of Guinea has reversed an earlier decision to pull out of the Olympics and will send a delegation of five athletes to the Tokyo Games.

Minister of Sports Sanoussy Bantama Sow made the announcement Thursday after national and international outcries that followed an earlier declaration that Guinea would not send athletes to Tokyo, blaming the coronavirus and its variants.

“The Minister of State, Minister of Sports has the true pleasure of informing the people of Guinea and the whole sports family, that the government, after obtaining guarantees from the health authorities, agrees to the participation of our athletes in the 32nd Olympics in Tokyo,” the minister said in a statement.

Guinea had announced late Wednesday that it was canceling its participation to protect the health of its athletes.

Only days before the statement, Guinean Olympic committee secretary general Ben Daouda Nassoko had told The Associated Press that funds had been released for the delegation to go to Tokyo.

Fatoumata Yarie Camara, a freestyle wrestler, was one of the five athletes affected by the decision.

She confirmed, through tears of joy, that she would be departing for Tokyo. She had earlier questioned the decision to pull out.

“The question I ask myself is why has Guinea decided not to participate in the Olympic Games on the grounds of coronavirus when the organizing country like Japan hasn’t canceled these Games because of this sickness,” she told the AP. “Why? That’s what I ask myself and I still can’t find an answer.”

The other Guinean athletes are swimmers Mamadou Tahirou Bah and Fatoumata Lamarana Toure, 100-meter runner Aissata Deen Conte and judo competitor Mamadou Samba Bah.

Guinea has participated in the Olympics 11 times but has never won a medal. North Korea is the only country to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics, also citing concerns related to COVID-19.

Source: Voice of America

WHO Urges African Nations to Speed Up COVID-19 Vaccinations

The World Health Organization is urging African countries to ramp up preparations for COVID-19 vaccination rollouts in anticipation of the imminent arrival of millions of vaccine doses on the continent. WHO reports more than 6.2 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 159,000 have died.

New cases of COVID-19 in Africa have fallen slightly following eight weeks of a fast-moving surge. The decline is attributed to a sharp drop in cases in South Africa. However, the World Health Organization reports the situation could change quickly as violent protests and mass gatherings in the country could trigger another rise in cases.

WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti says Africa’s third wave is not over. She notes 21 countries, three more than last week, are experiencing a resurgence. She says the highly contagious delta variant has now been detected in 26 countries and 13 of them need more oxygen due to a surge in cases.

She says Africa continues to lag in COVID-19 vaccines, with just 20 million Africans or 1.5 percent of the continent’s population fully vaccinated. But she says Africa’s supply crunch is starting to ease.

She says the first delivery of doses donated by the United States through the COVAX Facility is arriving in Africa this week and altogether nearly 60 million doses from other sources are expected in the coming weeks.

“African countries must go all out and speed up their vaccine rollouts by five to six times if they are to get all these doses into arms and fully vaccinate the most vulnerable 10 percent of their people by the end of September,” Moeti said. “Around 3.5 to four million doses are administered each week on the continent, but this needs to rise to 21 million doses each week at the very least to meet this goal.”

Moeti says more than half a billion doses are expected through COVAX alone this year. This massive influx, she says, means countries must up their game.

“We need to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy,” Moeti said. “So, this communication—targeting people, targeting the messages that we are tracking and the misinformation or the fears and misconceptions is absolutely vital now because the time to mobilize people to be ready to be vaccinated is not when the vaccines are landing. It is now in this narrow period of a window that we have to do all of this.”

Regional director Moeti says countries must scale up their operations. She says countries need sufficient vaccine sites, storage facilities, adequate transport, plans for distribution and, of course, health care workers to carry out this life-saving activity.

Source: Voice of America