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COVID-19: Africa advised to prepare for a worst-case scenario

FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus screening

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A new campaign has been launched to increase financing for Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to raise its capacity for securing essential diagnostics and medical supplies needed for COVID-19 response in Africa.

The One by One; Target COVID-19 campaign, spearheaded by Africa-CDC, the Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Foundation and the Access-Challenge aims to galvanize action against COVID-19 by drawing attention to the need for widespread testing and social prevention measures across the continent which according to different models is yet to see the worst of the lethal virus.

Kate Campana, the Chief Executive Officer of the Access-Challenge says that because most national health systems lack sophisticated respiratory machines and intensive care units to care for severe cases of COVID-19, it is imperative that the continent moves ahead of the virus and mobilize financial resources to ensure that essential medical equipment is available.

“COVID-19 may soon hit Africa with full force. If this happens, we can expect widespread calamity on a scale even worse than experiences in China, America or Italy, Campana says. The United States has so far recorded 1,064,572 cases of coronavirus disease with 61,669 deaths while Italy lost 27,000 people out of 203,591 positive cases recorded and China where the disease started lost 4,633 people from a total infection of 82,862.

As of Wednesday, April, 29 confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa stood at 36,456 with the death toll at 1,586 people. South Africa still has the highest number of infections with 5,350 cases and 103 deaths followed by Egypt with 5,268 cases and 380 deaths which so far is the highest on the continent. Morocco now has 4,321 cases with 168 deaths and Algeria has 3,848 cases with 444 deaths. By this morning Uganda had registered 81 cases, 52 of which have recovered and 29 remain active.

But the architects of the campaign say that Africa needs to prepare for a worst-case scenario. Dr John Nkengasong, the Director of Africa CDC observes that there is currently a big gap in testing on the continent which sends an erroneous signal on the magnitude of the problem thus far and that countries should increase their ability to test and trace for COVID-19 suspects.

“There are four things we must do: scale-up testing and isolate infected individuals, protect our healthcare workers, focus on communities to ensure that the community response is strong and ensure a constant supply chain component,” he said.

The campaign co-founder, Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete says that there has never been a more critical time than now for countries to take bold and decisive actions to support Universal Health Coverage – not only to protect citizens from COVID-19 but from all other health challenges.

“It is important to understand the impact COVID-19 will have on a system that is already burdened by other health challenges across the continent. We cannot protect people from deadly pandemics, over-burdening NCDs, advance gender equality or achieve any of the other 2030 Sustainable Development Goals without accelerating progress towards universal health coverage,” Dr Kikwete stated.

The campaign will also engage popular celebrity artists, athletes and cultural and business leaders as informed mouthpieces for disseminating accurate public health information; help Pan-African leaders to amplify their messages on COVID-19 and engage donors and the private sector to invest in system-wide capacity strengthening in Africa through the African Union COVID-19 response mechanism.

This is in support of the partnership to accelerate COVID-19 testing (PACT): Trace, Test and Track and the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 of the African Union.

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