Dr Patrick Nguku, Regional Technical Coordinator, African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), has said that West Africa is intensifying preparations toward handling the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19), epidemic in the sub-region.
Nguku, who is also a Senior Resident Advisor, Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programmes, spoke at a two- day Simulation Exercise implemented by the World Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), in collaboration with the Africa Centre for Disease Control and AFENET Africa, on Thursday in Abuja.
He said that the overall objective of the simulation exercise was to strengthen preparedness and readiness capacities
for an adequate regional rapid response to Covid-19 outbreak, adding that AFENET was working with existing health structures to avoid duplicating efforts.
“We provide a database of well-trained epidemiologists. The AFENET Corps of Disease Detectives (ACoDD) by design is there to be deployed by regional bodies, and not just by AFENET.
“ACoDD was significantly utilised during the Ebola and Yellow Fever outbreaks and it is being utilised for the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Some members of ACoDD have already been deployed to Lagos State, Nigeria,” he disclosed.
Nguku said that West Africa has continued to provide technical guidance and tools among themselves.
He said that the member states had stepped up proactive measures in a bid to ensure the best chance of containing a possible outbreak.
He, however, emphasised the urgency of the current situation regarding Covid19 which necessitated the convening of the meeting to agree on strategies for protecting the population of the region.
“The simulation exercise is to test operational capacities of ERRRT to adequately respond in case of Covid-19 outbreak.
“It is also to identify gaps and urgent measures to be taken in case of immediate deployment of the ECOWAS Regional Rapid Response Team, following a request from ECOWAS Member States.
“Following our presentation on the global situation, the processes currently in place in the regional and laboratory preparedness, we will continue to strengthen coordination, communication and collaboration across member states.
“Our preparedness for Covid-19 epidemic, including cross-border collaboration, will include enhanced surveillance and management measures for Covid-19, particularly at entry points – air, land and sea.
“We have also stepped up communication to ensure that the member states receives accurate, appropriate and timely information regarding the epidemic,” he added.
Dr Giampiero Baldassarri, Senior Technical Advisor, Deutsche Gesellschaft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), said that the epidemic in China was coming under control with steady reduction of daily incidence.
“But the epidemic outside China is expanding in number of daily incident cases and number of countries reporting cases, in spite of containment measures.
“This is not a task for experts alone. We all are involved and should be united in fighting this outbreak that can be defeated and we have continued to do so much to be prepared for the outbreak,” he said.
Baldassarri said it was a call for all and the virus was no longer a threat but a reality.
“Let me add that it is not the time for fear, but solidarity, cooperation and collective commitment from all,” he said.
He urged governments of member states to take the necessary steps to ensure rapid detection and response.
He added that they should continue to emphasise and support focus on readiness for containment, but more also on the ability to respond to cases.
Meanwhile, Dr Denis Bunyoga, Technical Officer, Africa CDC, has said that countries in Africa were detecting with rapid testing and containment of COVID19 because systems were working.
Bunyoga said that the Africa CDC strategy of building targeted capacity and providing tools were effective.
He said that the Africa CDC strategy was enhanced surveillance, rapid detection and containment.
The Nigeria News Agency , reports that a communique by Emergency Meeting of African Union Ministers of Health on COVID19, endorsed Africa Taskforce for COVID19, Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID19, and Africa CDC Guidance for Movement Restrictions of people at risk for COVID19 in Africa.
Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and South Africa have marked their first cases of COVID19, while the Biblical Church of Nativity in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank has been closed down due to COVID19 fears.
Globally, more than 95,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with the vast majority in China where the virus originated in 2019.