Sub-Saharan Africa braces for coronavirus


The Word Health Organisation (WHO) African Region Office has warned that, with cases of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) now confirmed in Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, African countries must step up their preparedness to counter an infection whose first case was discovered in China.

Responding to the statement, Secretary for Health Dan Namalika said government is doing everything possible that the disease is contained if it finds its way into the country.

“We have a health cluster that is meeting every week to strategise,” Namalika said, who added that government was making steady progress on preparations.


According to a statement released on March 5, the announcement of the first case in the WHO African Region has prompted the regional office to shift its preparatory operations to full response mode.

The statement, signed by WHO Communications Manager at Africa Region Saya Oka, says there is no time to lose and Africa has to prepare for the global outbreak, as it closes in.

“As coronavirus has spread around the world and significant outbreaks occurred in other countries, the risk of transmission to Africa has increased. Now that there have been cases confirmed in sub-Saharan Africa, it is especially important that countries put stringent early detection and surveillance measures in place,” Oka says in the statement.


The statement says the organisation’s main fear is that countries could develop an unmanageably large caseload that could then easily overwhelm existing health systems that are already dealing with many diseases and challenges.

It says WHO key point is to limit transmission from affected countries and to ensure that countries in the WHO African Region have the capacity to prevent, detect, isolate and also provide appropriate treatment to people that may be infected.

The statement also says it is important to ensure that populations have the appropriate information on at least how to prevent the disease and limit its transmission.

WHO has already deployed a team of six experts to Algeria; six to Nigeria; and four to Senegal to work with national authorities to contain the outbreaks and additional expert deployments are in the pipeline.

WHO Director General has recognised Covid-19 as a public health emergency of international concern and WHO is providing support to a range of countries around the world.

This week, a case has been confirmed in South Africa.

Thursday, Malawi government wrote stakeholders who were scheduled to participate in the 64th session of the UN Commission on Status of Women against travelling due to coronavirus threats.

A letter signed by Mercy Safalawo, on behalf of Secretary for Gender, says, due to Covid-19, the 64th session that was scheduled to take place in United States of America, New York, at the UN Headquarters from March 9-20, has been cancelled due to current threat of the outbreak.

Over 50,000 delegates across the world including Malawi were supposed to attend the meeting.

Meanwhile, as Covid-19 reaches more than 90 countries, the World Bank Group is making available an initial package of up to $12 billion in immediate support to assist countries in coping with the health and economic impacts of the global outbreak.

This financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by coronavirus.

“Through this new fast track package, the World Bank Group will help developing countries strengthen health systems, including better access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies.

The financial package, with financing drawn from across IDA, IBRD and IFC, will be globally coordinated to support country-based responses,” a statement from the bank says.

According to media reports, currently, there are 98,440 coronavirus cases, 3,387 deaths from the outbreak while 55,661 people have recovered from the pandemic.

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