By Sellma M
NB: The article was written on the 10th Feb, before the first case of nCoV-19 was found in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Coronavirus has been declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a global health threat. With special attention to countries that don’t have the tools and systems in place to respond to an eventual epidemic scenario. Given the tight business and cultural connection between many African countries and China, it is said to be a matter of time before the first positive case surfaces on the African continent.
So far, 40,000 cases have been detected worldwide and, 910 deaths (mainly in China) have been recorded. On the continent, the most recent reports came from Kenya and Ghana. Mozambique and Uganda have started to quarantine people, the former restricting over a 100 people to stay at home or in hospital. Ethiopian airlines have not amended their flights to China, while Kenya has suspended all flights.
The most pressing questions are: Are the countries prepared to respond in the event of an outbreak? Which countries are more vulnerable? What effect will it have on the economy?
In the epicentre of the disease outbreak, Wuhan, 91 Kenyan students are asking their home state to bring them back, stating also that they are running out of food supplies. Among other factors, it’s been noted that there are only two laboratories in the continent that can test for the disease one in Senegal and one in South Africa,
The African Union Centre for Disease Control(CDC) and Prevention is taking matters into their hands. The director, Dr John Nkengasong, has announced on Monday 3rd February the setting up of the Task Force for coronavirus preparedness and response.
The 55 member countries have a call twice a week and have divided the work into five workstreams. This Task Force consists of five working groups: surveillance, including a screening at points of entry; infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities; clinical management of persons with severe 2019-nCoV infection; laboratory diagnosis and subtyping; and risk communication and community engagement.
Each representative of a Member State and Africa CDC will lead one of the working groups and membership in the groups will include representatives of Member States, WHO, and other subject matter experts and partners.
It seems like the African Union is trying to learn from the Ebola 2014 virus epidemic . As with finding the first African case of Coronavirus and whether or not the above measures are effective, only time will tell.
BBC. (2020). BBC World Service — Africa Today, Coronavirus: How prepared is Africa?. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p082nhzt
Gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com. (2020). Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS. [online] Available at: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6
World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus