By Cecilia Ologunagba
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, says there are now 147 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa in 15 countries and there have been four COVID-19-related deaths.
The UN Health agency disclosed this in a statement posted on its website.
It said that the agency had on Wednesday declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said “With COVID-19 officially declared a pandemic, all countries in Africa must act.
“Every country can still change the course of this pandemic by scaling up their emergency preparedness or response.
“Cases may still be low in Africa and we can keep it that way with robust all-of-government actions to fight the new coronavirus.”
According to her, containment remains the most appropriate strategy for African countries.
Apart from South Africa and Algeria – which have clusters of transmission linked to imported cases – the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the African region are sporadic importations from European countries, mainly Italy, France, Germany and Spain.
To focus on containment in this narrowing window of available time, the WHO Regional Office for Africa is shifting from readiness to response mode.
In countries with confirmed cases, efforts are underway to trace people who may have come into contact with those confirmed to have COVID-19.
Efforts to support countries as they bolster essential early detection and surveillance capabilities at their ports, airports and land crossings are underway.
So far, 62 WHO experts in technical areas including coordination, treatment, infection prevention and control, community engagement and surveillance have been deployed across 18 countries, and more deployments are planned.
Those experts who have arrived in countries with confirmed cases are now assisting national governments in their response, helping them to manage the disease and prevent onward transmission.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa has also developed tools for Member States to help with the rapid collection and reporting of alerts, cases and contact data, streamlining any eventual contact tracing.
A WebEx training was recently held to help surveillance focal points and data managers in-country on the use of these tools.