By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
As the threat of coronavirus disease looms over the continent, the World Health Organization (WHO) has promised to support African Union Member States on a common preparedness and response strategy.
WHO in a statement issued yesterday said the joint Health Ministers made the resolved in an Emergency Meeting on the Coronavirus Disease Outbreak, which was convened on 22 February by the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The statement said WHO has conducted a survey with countries to assess their overall readiness for COVID-19 and found the regional readiness level was an estimated 66%.
“WHO finds there are critical gaps in readiness for countries across the continent,” said Dr Moeti. “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.”
The African Ministers of Health discussed a joint communique on how to prepare for and potentially respond to COVID-19 and expect to conclude their discussions in a few days.
WHO played an active role in supporting countries to coordinate preparation efforts and so far has deployed more than 40 experts to 10 countries to support coordination, treatment, infection, prevention and control, community engagement, surveillance and laboratory disease control.
WHO has 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.
“The threats posed by COVID-19 has cast a spotlight on the shortcomings in health systems in the African Region,” said Dr Moeti. “Countries must invest in emergency preparedness. This investment is worthwhile when you consider the cost of responding to outbreaks, which for the 2014 Ebola outbreak was estimated at close to $US 3 billion. “
Meanwhile, a female doctor at a Wuhan hospital that receives patients infected with the novel coronavirus died from the virus on Sunday, according to the hospital.
Xinhua, reports that Xia Sisi, 29, a gastroenterology physician, became infected while working at the Union Jiangbei Hospital of Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. She was hospitalized on Jan. 19 and later transferred to Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University on Feb. 7 after her condition worsened. She died Sunday morning despite doctors’ all-out efforts to save her life. The Union Jiangbei Hospital mourned the death of Xia and expressed condolences for her family. Chinese health authorities have required local health agencies to promptly apply for the honor of martyr for deceased medical staff to the veteran’s affairs authorities, comfort the families of the deceased and help solve their difficulties.