ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, 7 MARCH 2020. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) confirms that the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has now been reported in several African countries, with cases in Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Tunisia.
It’s important to emphasize that we anticipated that this would happen and have been planning for response. For this reason, Africa CDC has been partnering with the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) or equivalent government agencies, and the Ministries of Health to prepare African Union Member States to respond to the outbreak in their countries.
Our strategy is clear: we want to capacitate Member States so they can quickly detect and mitigate the effects of the disease in Africa, and, if widespread transmission occurs, prevent severe illness and death.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, Africa CDC has trained hundreds of experts from African Union Member States in different aspects of COVID-19 prevention and control, including laboratory diagnosis, enhanced surveillance and point of entry screening, infection prevention and control, risk communication, and case management.
As of today, 43 laboratories from 43 African countries have participated in training organized by Africa CDC. Representatives of these laboratories have been trained to isolate and transport the virus and test for it in the laboratory. Each laboratory received kits containing reagents to conduct at least 200 tests during the training. Africa CDC also provides additional kits for 1000 tests to any country that reports cases. The WHO and US CDC provided additional test kits to some of these countries to strengthen their capacity to test for the virus.
For Member States that do not yet have the capacity to conduct the test, Africa CDC is facilitating their linkage to the closest capacitated laboratories within the continent. We have trained them on how to transport specimens across the border and we are monitoring how they do this to ensure the quality of tests conducted. Some of the countries are now conducting genomic sequencing of confirmed cases in their countries with support from Africa CDC.
Based on country requests, Africa CDC has deployed six of its experts to support response in two affected countries and will be deploying more experts as the need arises. These experts are working very hard with in-country experts to develop and implement response plans and are supporting training of more experts at the country level.
As the outbreak continues to evolve, the risk of other African countries detecting new cases of COVID-19 remains high. Africa CDC will continue to work with Member States and partners to harness and maximize use of the limited resources available on the continent. Our goal is to rapidly detect, contain and minimize any harm to populations in Africa.
Dr John Nkengasong
Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention