Africa 66% ready to tackle coronavirus – WHO

Passengers arrive at Jomo Kenyatta airport

Passengers arrive at Jomo Kenyatta airport

Only 66 per cent of countries in Africa have put in place preparedness mechanisms to handle a case of coronavirus (COVID -19) if it arises, the African Union (AU) says.

A statement released on Sunday shows that the emergency meeting of Health ministers convened by the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa on Saturday assessed individual countries’ readiness to tackle the disease and found critical gaps in their capacity to investigate alerts or be able to follow up with people in isolation effectively. 

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for Africa who attended the meeting said only 66 per cent of the countries have strengthened their capacity to investigate alerts and have improved infection prevention in health facilities and in the community.

“WHO finds that there are critical gaps in readiness for countries across the continent,” he said noting that WHO has deployed 40 experts to ten countries in Africa to support coordination, surveillance and laboratory disease control. 

“The threat posed by COVID-19 has cast a spotlight on the shortcomings in health systems in the African Region. We need urgently to prioritize strengthening the capacities for countries to investigate alerts treat patients in isolation facilities and improve infection, prevention and control in health facilities and in communities”, he said in a statement.

Coronavirus continues to ravage China where the disease started in late 2019 with infections currently standing at 76,392  and 2,595 deaths. Outside China, the disease has affected 2,195 people in 28 countries with some 25 deaths. On Saturday, two new countries (Lebanon and Israel) reported cases of COVID-19.

WHO says preparedness for infectious diseases such as COVID-19 is a worthwhile investment when one considers the cost of responding to outbreaks. It gives an example of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that was estimated at close to $3 billion.

They say that preparedness efforts which countries had put in place for Ebola are paying off, helping even for coronavirus. For instance, in the nine countries neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they are using structures for screening and isolations units that were already in place and have only had to do small upgrading to manage suspected cases.      

Written by stevejonas

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