Ethiopian gov't, WHO stress joint coronavirus preparedness efforts

According to the WHO, since January, there have been numerous alerts about coronavirus disease reported in Ethiopia, but after investigation, including the testing of suspect cases, no case has been confirmed in the country. More than 1,800 passengers with travel history to China have been screened.
Ethiopian gov't, WHO stress joint coronavirus preparedness efforts
Source: Reuters
The Ethiopian government and the World Health Organizations (WHO) on Monday stressed that joint efforts are well underway to contain a potential novel coronavirus outbreak in Ethiopia.
"Home to one of Africa's busiest international airline hubs, Ethiopia is bolstering preparedness to contain a potential outbreak of coronavirus disease, now known as COVID-19," the WHO said in a statement.
Noting that Ethiopian health authorities are tightening up surveillance, diagnosis, epidemic response coordination and public health education to swiftly detect cases and limit widespread infections, the WHO also stressed that the East African country is among 13 African countries that it considers as "top priority for COVID-19 preparedness due to direct links or a high volume of travel to China."
Recalling the confirmation by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population concerning the first case of COVID-19 in Africa, the WHO said that "while there have been no confirmed cases reported in sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO Regional Office for Africa continues to strengthen its support to countries to detect and manage suspect cases and ensure a robust response."
"We are working hard day and night with the government to improve the critical measures needed to ensure that the country is ready to effectively respond to an outbreak of COVID-19. We have shipped in equipment for infection prevention and control and are supporting the training of health officials," the statement quoted Boureima Sambo Hama, WHO representative to Ethiopia, as saying.
"As we speak, with the strong support of WHO, response systems are close to being right up to standard, Ethiopia is taking the right steps and we are rallying our efforts to ensure we can detect the virus and respond in time," Hama said.
According to the WHO, since January, there have been numerous alerts about coronavirus disease reported in Ethiopia, but after investigation, including the testing of suspect cases, no case has been confirmed in the country. More than 1,800 passengers with travel history to China have been screened.
Zewdu Assefa, manager of the Emergency Response Center at the Addis Ababa-based Ethiopian Public Health Institute, also stressed that strengthening epidemic response coordination, enhancing surveillance through screenings at the country's international airports and land borders were some of the main elements of coronavirus preparedness efforts in Ethiopia.
The East African country has four international airports and 21 land border crossing points.
In addition, an isolation center is being set up and more equipment and supplies needed to prevent and control a potential outbreak were also being procured with the help of the WHO, according to Zewdu.
"We have also designated different treatment centers and mapped hospitals in preparation," Zewdu said. "With the nature of this virus you need additional capacity in terms of supplies for infection prevention and control materials."
The WHO also said that it has shipped reagent kits for coronavirus diagnosis to more than 20 countries in Africa to step up the diagnosis of the virus and is working closely with countries to help them prepare for a rapid detection and response to cases or clusters.
The Ethiopian government has so far trained some 60 rapid response team members on coronavirus surveillance, medical care for patients, public health communication and countering misinformation and rumors.
"We are working with our partners to achieve the (required) standard level of preparedness," said Zewdu, emphasizing that Ethiopia's previous preparedness efforts for influenza and Ebola outbreaks were paying off for coronavirus readiness.
"We are not starting a new thing, but we are strengthening preparedness. We are also using the experience in EVD (Ebola virus disease) screening at the points of entry to strengthen screening for the new coronavirus," he added.

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