Africa’s coronavirus preparedness stands at an estimated 66%, a World Health Organization (WHO) survey has shown.
The coronavirus report, which was discussed at African Union (AU) Commission in Ethiopia this weekend, highlights key gaps in the region’s health systems ability to deal with an outbreak of the virus.
“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,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa
So far coronavirus has claimed 2,619 lives, with another 79,000 people testing positive for the virus globally. Only 27 deaths have occurred outside mainland China.
210 people have been tested for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa from January 22 to February 20 this year according to a countries report. 204 cases have been ruled out; results of the remaining six are pending.
Africa at risk
While there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in Kenya and Africa, concern is high over the potential impact of an outbreak on the continent, given the strength of the region’s health systems.
“The threats posed by COVID-19 has cast a spotlight on the shortcomings in health systems in the African Region,” said Dr Moeti.
Africa’s Health Ministers held an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Saturday to discuss how to prepare for and potentially respond to an outbreak on the continent. The WHO, which has joined the Health Ministers for the meeting, has promised to help AU member states in COVID-19 preparedness and response.
So far, 40 experts have been deployed to support coordination, treatment, infection, prevention and control, community engagement, surveillance and laboratory disease control
WHO has also assisted countries in building their diagnostic capacity for COVID-19, and currently 26 laboratories are able to test for the new pathogen, up from just two early this month.
During the meeting, WHO regional director for Africa was joined by H.E. Amira Elfadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs, and African Union Commission in welcoming Ministers of AU.