By Adedapo Adesanya
The United Kingdom has pledged up to £105 million of UK emergency aid to help vulnerable countries tackle the Omicron COVID-19 variant, with a particular focus on Africa.
This was disclosed by the Foreign Secretary, Ms Liz Truss, who added that the vital aid will be delivered through trusted partners and will help scale-up testing, especially in parts of Africa where testing rates for the virus remain lowest – allowing health systems to track and respond to the spread of the virus more effectively.
This is in addition to the UK’s world-leading genomic sequencing support.
She also added that it will help improve access to oxygen supplies for ventilators – a surge in demand for oxygen is a significant risk for some countries, provide communities with hygiene advice, products and access to handwashing facilities and support deep cleaning in schools, health centres and other public places.
This will build on the successful global hygiene campaign between UK aid and Unilever which has reached over 1.2 billion people since its launch in 2020.
The fund will also aid the UK’s science and research into the spread of variants like Omicron to enable innovative evidence-based policy responses in low and middle-income countries.
It will also ready the UK’s own expert emergency teams for deployment overseas to crisis hotspots, including with new medical equipment.
Speaking on this, the country’s Foreign Secretary said, “The UK is providing vital assistance to help tackle the spread of new variants around the world. This is key to securing our freedom and ending this pandemic once and for all.
“I am proud that we have also delivered over 30 million vaccines to benefit our friends around the world this year. The UK is helping other countries most in need. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Doses donated by the UK have reached four continents and provided vital protection from Covid-19 in countries including Angola, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Malawi, Nepal, and Rwanda.
Of the more than 30 million doses now donated, 24.6 million have been received by COVAX for delivery to countries and 5.5 million have been shared directly with countries in need including Kenya, Jamaica, and Indonesia.
Millions more vaccines will be sent to other countries in 2022, including 20 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses and 20 million Janssen doses.
The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19 and its latest announcement builds on the £1.3 billion in UK aid committed to the international health response early on in the pandemic, supporting vaccines, health systems and economic recovery in developing countries.
The UK Government also invested more than £88 million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the UK became the first country in the world to approve the jab a year ago.