The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) condemned as “racist” the words of two French doctors who suggested that a vaccine against the coronavirus could be tested in Africa.
“Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine,” said managing director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The doctors’ remarks in a televised debate sparked outrage and they were accused of treating Africans as “human guinea pigs”.
One of them then apologized.
Asked about the doctors’ suggestion at the WHO coronavirus briefing, Dr. Tedros was visibly angry, calling him a hangover from the “colonial mentality.”
“It was a terrible shame to hear in the 21st century, to hear scientists, that kind of remark. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms, and we assure you that it will not happen, “he said.
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As the number of confirmed cases in Africa continues to increase, some governments are imposing tougher measures to try to slow the spread of the virus. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has banned all travel to and from the capital, Nairobi, and three other major cities for three weeks.
What did the doctors say?
During a debate on the French television channel LCI, Camille Locht, research manager within the health research group Inserm, spoke of a vaccine trial in Europe and Australia.
Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at the Cochin hospital in Paris, then said: “If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatment, no resuscitation?
“A bit like it is done elsewhere for certain studies on AIDS. In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are very exposed and that they do not protect themselves. “
Mr. Locht nodded in agreement with this suggestion and said, “You are right. We are thinking of a parallel study in Africa. “
Dr. Mira previously asked if the study would work as expected on healthcare workers in Australia and Europe because they had access to personal protective equipment (PPE) while working.
The show sparked widespread anger, including from former footballer Didier Drogba, who described the remarks as “deeply racist”. He added, “Don’t take Africans as human guinea pigs! It’s absolutely disgusting. ”
His former footballer Samuel Eto’o called the doctors “murderers”.
Doctors’ comments have also fueled concerns in Africa that Africans will be used as guinea pigs for a new coronavirus vaccine.
Coronavirus centers have been targeted in African countries – more recently, a facility under construction in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast has been attacked and destroyed by protesters.
Images posted on social networks show people tearing the center apart with their hands and smashing building materials on the ground.
What else is going on in Africa?
Meanwhile, prominent Nigerian actress Funke Akindele was fined $ 260 (£ 210) after hosting a birthday party for her husband at her mansion in Lagos, in the presence of a number of other Nigerian celebrities.
Akindele and her husband have pleaded guilty to violating Nigeria’s lockdown restrictions in a Lagos court, according to a Lagos State police statement. The couple were also ordered to do 14 days of community service.
In South Africa, a pair of newlyweds were arrested after breaking the lock restrictions to move forward with their marriage. Police attended the party in KwaZulu-Natal after receiving a warning and arrested the 50 wedding guests, the pastor who conducted the ceremony, and the couple themselves.
Zimbabwe has warned people against buying and selling unregistered Covid-19 self-test kits. Unverified kits have been sold by private companies, including some pharmacies, but Health Minister Obadiah Moyo told the state-owned Herald that all kits should be assessed by local authorities first.