The WHO chief today angrily slammed scientists as ‘racist’ for calling on Africa to become the world’s coronavirus testing ground.
‘Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine,’ WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference, adding that the suggestion was a hangover from the ‘colonial mentality’.
‘It was a disgrace, appalling, to hear during the 21st century, to hear from scientists, that kind of remark. We condemn this in the strongest terms possible, and we assure you that this will not happen,’ the former Ethiopian health minister added.
It comes as world powers are racing to find an antidote to the contagion which has so far infected more than 1.3million people globally and killed over 70,000. A vaccine is estimated to be 12 to 18 months away.
It comes after two French doctors were accused of racism last week for suggesting that Africa should be the testing ground because the people there are highly exposed.
Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris, said: ‘If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?
‘A bit like as it is done elsewhere for some studies on Aids. In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.’
Camille Locht, head of research at the Inserm health research group agreed ‘you are right’ and added that a study in Africa was already being considered.
He said: ‘We are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa.’
The comments caused outrage on social media with many viewers calling the comments racist.