By Sola Ogundipe
Following confirmation in Egypt of the first known COVID-19 infection in Africa, the Ministers of Health of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS have resolved to strengthen cooperation amongst their countries to deal with the potential threat of the global epidemic.
Although no case has been officially confirmed in within the region, the Ministers of the Member States who met in Bamako, Mali on Friday, agreed to “strengthen capacities of national and regional entities in the region in the surveillance, prevention and early detection of epidemics” due to the COVID-19.
They identified shortcomings of the health systems in Africa as a concern and experts worried about the consequences that could arise from the emergence of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa.
During the meeting, it was decided to “strengthen cross-border coordination”, as well as vigilance with regard to travelers from China.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Eswatini were testing suspected cases as on Saturday, according to the African Union’s Center for Disease Control, CDC.
The African CDC, in a statement, stated: “The 17 contacts of the patient have tested negative, and all of them are under home isolation for 14 days. They are being followed up by the Ministry of Health and Population.
“Africa CDC is working closely with the WHO and other partners to ensure that the diagnostic tools needed by Egypt are available and that they take the right actions to contain the outbreak as quickly as possible,” the statement added.
Earlier, in a joint statement, Egypt’s health and population ministries announced said the patient, a 33-year-old foreigner had been put into isolation in hospital for treatment and monitoring. It did not say what nationality the person was or where the person had been prior to arriving in Egypt.
The health ministry said it immediately informed the World Health Organisation and had taken all necessary preventative measures.
The person was carrying the virus, but had not shown any symptoms and was in a stable condition.