African Union strengthens coronavirus preparedness

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The African Union (AU) is building its capacities to respond to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with a training workshop recently held in Abuja, Nigeria for point of entry officials and health workers in its member states.

In preparation against the possible outbreak of the epidemic, 35 member states from the AU sent their representatives to the training, which was scheduled for February 21 to 25.

The training workshop was the first of its kind by the AU in collaboration with other international partners including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

“WHO AFRO (Regional Office for Africa), WHO EMRO (Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean), Africa CDC, with Africa Health Organization, all come together to decide on how best to approach this situation, share information. And of course, we should not forget that politically too, our officials, decision-makers have also seen the need to invest in health,” said Dr Raji Tajudeen, head of the Public Health Institutes and Research at the Africa CDC.

The training involved health workers as well as officials at ports and points of entry in Africa. Key players of the continent were equipped with necessary information on infection prevention and control (IPC) in case of any eventualities.

“If this virus is going to enter any country, it is going to come through a point of entry. It is going to fly in or come in via ship or come in via a road border, a land border. And therefore, if we have vigilant people, who are trained, who have a high index of suspicion, that is the first barrier that we have erected. Then the second part is if somebody becomes sick with the coronavirus, he would either be sick in his community and remain in his community, or he will show up in a health facility. And if you notice, most disease outbreaks are amplified around health facilities,” said Dr Tochi Okwor, Infection Prevention and Control Programme Coordinator at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

The training is part of the AU’s proactive measures to strengthen the body’s preparedness for the outbreak response.