The World Health Organisation has identified Nigeria and twelve other counties as high-risk African countries for coronavirus.
Asides Nigeria, the other high-risk nations are Algeria, Angola, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
According to a statement from WHO, the identified African nations have direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
“WHO has identified 13 top priority countries (Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
“To ensure rapid detection of the novel coronavirus, it is important to have laboratories which can test samples and WHO is supporting countries to improve their testing capacity. Since this is a new virus, there are currently only two referral laboratories in the African region which have the reagents needed to conduct such tests.
“However, reagent kits are being shipped to more than 20 other countries in the region, so diagnostic capacity is expected to increase over the coming days. Active screening at airports has been established in a majority of these countries and while they will be WHO first areas of focus, the organization will support all countries in the region in their preparation efforts,” the statement read in parts.
The statement further noted that “It is critical that countries step up their readiness and in particular put in place effective screening mechanisms at airports and other major points of entry to ensure that the first cases are detected quickly”.
According to WHO, the quicker countries can detect cases, the faster they will be able to contain an outbreak and ensure the novel coronavirus does not overwhelm health systems.
WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Thursday.
The health organization says it is scaling up novel coronavirus preparedness efforts in the African region and supporting countries to implement recommendations outlined by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, which met in Geneva, Switzerland on 30 January.
On the advice of the Emergency Committee, the WHO Director-General, declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
The Emergency Committee recommended that all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of the onward spread of novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO.
While WHO is supporting countries to investigate a number of alerts, there continue to be no reported cases of the novel coronavirus in the African region.
However, there are many links between China and the African continent.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, has sent out a guidance note to all countries on how to prepare for a possible novel coronavirus outbreak.
“It is critical that countries step up their readiness and in particular put in place effective screening mechanisms at airports and other major points of entry to ensure that the first cases are detected quickly,” said Dr Moeti.
He was of the opinion that the quicker countries can detect cases, the faster they will be able to contain an outbreak and ensure the novel coronavirus does not overwhelm health systems.
The WHO director further noted that rapid confirmation or ruling out novel coronavirus cases, establishing a platform for isolating suspected or confirmed cases, getting good information out to the public and pre-positioning supplies are all important actions for countries to undertake.
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