The World Health Organization (WHO) is strengthening its support to African countries in the detection and management of suspected cases of the new coronavirus. Although there are no confirmed cases of new coronaviruses on the continent, the organization wants to guarantee a robust response, should a first case be detected. WHO assesses a high risk for the African region since the continent has close ties with China, which is at the epicenter of the outbreak.
Since January 22, WHO has received dozens of alerts about possible new coronavirus infections in 20 countries. However, until the beginning of this week, only two laboratories – one in Senegal and the other in South Africa – had the necessary reagents to test samples of the virus. Fortunately, four more countries (Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) have already reported that they can also run tests.
WHO is sending kits to 29 laboratories on the continent, which will ensure that they have the capacity to diagnose new coronaviruses and can also support test samples from neighboring countries.
“A new virus is always a challenge and most laboratories in Africa do not have the essential material needed to conduct tests on a new pathogen,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “WHO is working with countries to rapidly increase diagnostic capacity. It is crucial that countries in the region are able to detect and treat serious cases early, avoiding a widespread outbreak, which can overwhelm fragile health systems ”.
WHO is dispatching protective equipment for healthcare professionals, as well as thermometers and other essential supplies for screening and treating suspicious cases at airports and other points of entry. 13 countries were considered a top priority, taking into account direct connections or the high volume of travel to China. Although these countries are the first areas of focus, the organization has promised to support all countries on the continent.
+ The 13 main priorities for the African continent are Algeria, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
As reported to WHO on February 4, 2020, there were 20 471 confirmed cases in China, with 425 deaths. Outside China, there were 159 confirmed cases in 23 countries, with one death.