Statement by the Chairperson on preparedness and response to the coronavirus disease in Africa

Statement by the Chairperson on preparedness and response to the coronavirus disease in Africa

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, February 24, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat opened an emergency ministerial meeting of African Health ministers today 22nd February 2020 as part of continental initiatives to enhance capacity to rapidly detect, and respond to COVID-19 on the Continent.

Convened by AfricaCDC, the Union’s technical agency on public health, in collaboration with the the World Health Organization (WHO), the ministers discussed how to strengthen preparedness and response to the outbreak by Member States. Among other objectives, the ministers:

  1. discussed on a continental strategy to better prepare and respond to any new cases of the virus on the continent;
  2. discussed the need for a common approach to receiving African students and citizens wishing to return from China;
  3. shared knowledge and information about experimental drugs, vaccines and clinical trials currently being undertaken for the control of the coronavirus disease.

Africa CDC also established the Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus (AFCOR) to coordinate preparedness and response across the continent.

AFCOR is led by representatives of Member States and has five priority areas: surveillance, infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities, clinical management of persons with severe COVID-2019 infection, risk communication and community engagement, and laboratory diagnosis and subtyping.

During the meeting, World Health Organization (WHO)Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus announced 6 global special envoys to provide strategic advice and high-level political advocacy on COVID19 around the globe, with Africa ably represented by Dr John Nkengasong, director of AfricaCDC, Dr Samba Sow, Director-General of the Centre for Vaccine Development in Mali and Prof Dr Maha El Rabbat, former Health Minister of Egypt.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak was first detected in January 2020 following the occurrence of cases from Wuhan, China. In addition to China, the disease has now been detected in 26 countries with 76 769 confirmed cases globally as of 21 February according the The World Health Organization (WHO). Last week, Egypt reported the first confirmed case of the disease in Africa.

“I wish to commend the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt for the rapid detection of the case and placing the patient in treatment at an isolation centre before it could spread any further,” said Chairperson Faki. “I also wish to reiterate the full solidarity of the Union with the people and Government of Egypt,” Chairperson Faki added.

Egypt’s swift response is also evidence of the country’s strong surveillance and preparedness capacities, which are supported by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.

Several African countries have tested suspected cases of COVID-19, but fortunately they have thus far been found negative.

Africa CDC is the AU’s specialised technical agency mandated to support Member States strengthen their public health systems, including Preparedness and Response to disease outbreaks, has been supporting Member States to assess preparedness levels through training and re-training of public health experts across the Continent to update their knowledge and response capacities since the epidemic began.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the African Union Commission.

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