•No suspected cases in Nigeria — NCDC
•Impossible to predict direction outbreak will take — WHO
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 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.
Almost all African governments have installed strict screening measures at the airports and other points of entry and all except Ethiopia have cancelled flights to China.
The Ministers, however, 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, the member countries decided to “strengthen cross-border coordination”, as well as vigilance with regard to travellers from China.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Eswatini were testing suspected cases as at 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.
No suspected COVID-19 cases in Nigeria — NCDC
There are no suspected COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has confirmed. The Director-General of the Agency, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the Agency is testing returning travelers who meet the case definition.
Ihekweazu said five persons who returned to Nigeria from China have been tested and they are not coronavirus cases.
“Since the beginning of COVID-19 outbreak, the protocol in Nigeria is to test returning travelers from China with symptoms. So far, five people have been tested. Results were negative. These are not ‘coronavirus cases”, Ihekweazu said in a post on the NCDC twitter handle.
According to the NCDC’s Surveillance Case Definitions, a suspected case is: “Any person that has returned from China in the last 14 days and has fever, cough, difficulty with breathing, or anyone with close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and should be tested.
Impossible to predict direction outbreak will take — WHO
The future is unknown as far as the COVID-19 epidemic is concerned, the World Health Organisation, WHO has warned.
Speaking on global health security weekend at the 56th Munich Security Conference, Director-General, WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the epidemic remains an unpredictable threat, urging governments to step up their efforts to prepare for the virus.
Tedros, who said the world is encouraged by the response to the outbreak so far, however, said the world also has concerns.
“Let me be clear: it is impossible to predict which direction this COVID-19 outbreak will take. What I can tell you is what encourages us, and what concerns us.
“We’re encouraged that the global research community has come together to identify and accelerate the most urgent research needs for COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
“We’re encouraged that an international team of experts is now on the ground in China, working closely with their Chinese counterparts to understand the COVID-19 outbreak, and to inform the next steps in the global response.
“But we also have several concerns. We’re concerned by the continued increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in China. We’re concerned by reports from China yesterday (Friday) about the number of health workers who have been infected or have died.
He said WHO was concerned by the lack of urgency in funding the COVID-19 response and the severe disruption in the market for personal protective equipment, which is putting front line health workers and carers at risk.
“We’re concerned about the level of rumours and misinformation that are hampering the COVID-19 response, and most of all, we’re concerned about the potential havoc this coronavirus could wreak in countries with weaker health systems.”
Tedros said the outbreaks of Ebola and COVID-19 underscore once again the vital importance for all countries to invest in preparedness, not panic.