ALGIERS: Algeria’s health minister on Tuesday urged people to get vaccinated and save hospitals from collapse as the North African nation faces a surge of COVID-19 infections.
Algeria is battling infections from both the delta variant and the highly contagious omicron variant, which now accounts for 60 percent of COVID-19 infections.
On Monday, health officials reported a daily record of 2,215 cases and 13 deaths.
“I urge you to get vaccinated and break the chain of infections which risk bringing our health institutions to their knees,” Health Minister Abderahmane Benbouzid said at a media conference in the capital, Algiers. “For now, the hospitals’ staff are managing. The question is, how long can they hold on?”
Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, according to studies. omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.
The inoculation rate in Algeria remains low. Less than a quarter of the population has had even one vaccine dose despite the government’s robust vaccination campaign in state media and on social networks that includes pro-vaccine posts from famous Algerian actors, singers, athletes and influencers.
Algeria has a stock of vaccines that can largely ensure coverage of vaccination needs for two years, the minister said. Overall, only 13 percent of Algeria’s 45 million inhabitants, have been inoculated, the minister said. Of eligible adults, only 29 percent have received two vaccine doses, he said.
In December, Algeria started requiring a vaccine passport to enter many public venues, seeking to overcome vaccine hesitancy that has left millions of vaccines unused.
The pass is also required for anyone entering or leaving Algeria, as well as for entering sports facilities, cinemas, theaters, museums, town halls and other sites like hammams — bath houses that are popular across the region.
Official figures show Algeria has seen 6,508 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began, but even members of the government’s scientific committee admit the real figure is much higher. Out of fears of being blamed for getting the virus, some Algerians keep their infections secret, which then puts others at risk.