By Gabriel Olawale
The Secretary-General of West African College of Physicians, WACP, Dr Albert Akpalu has called on West Africa countries on the need for the development of a common framework and guidance for further response to the covid-19 pandemic in the West Africa sub region.
Speaking on the recommendation of the College towards containment of covid-19 outbreak, Akpalu said that West Africa countries must intensify efforts towards ensuring availability of diagnostic centers and reagents for testing for the confirmation of suspected cases.
“The response to the pandemic this far has been pockmarked by many disparities and inadequacies, even within the same countries. This unwittingly creates loopholes for the transmission and spread of the infection. A common framework for response to Covid-19 is required to guide policies on testing, enforcement of physical (social) distancing, otherwise called lockdown, and other important outbreak mitigation measures including the use of facemasks, and provision of palliatives to vulnerable segments of the population, and importantly also, the protection of human rights during lockdowns.
“There have been significant variations in relation to testing, and there still are perhaps, which have distorted the perception and appreciation of the size of the pandemic in the sub region. These have also impacted on the control efforts in as much as asymptomatic persons could unknowingly be made super spreaders of the infection.
“WACP believes that it is possible to fashion out a common framework within which country-specific, and even state/district/city-specific responses could be worked out. The College also believes that it would be possible within the common framework, to work out schemes or programs of assistance for those countries and neighbors that are less endowed. This is in the spirit of good neighborliness. We all indeed need one another, and no country should think that it has all, and could do without help.
“The need to work collectively to build on the opportunities offered by the pandemic, and resulting good will, to strengthen the public health capacity and infrastructure in Chapter countries. There is need to secure the establishment, at strategic locations, of critical care centers for the clinical care of severely ill persons with HIDs including COVID-19, and Ebola and Lassa fevers
“Building on the opportunities offered by the pandemic for development of surveillance and research infrastructure and capacity, which are in dire need for effective public health response to outbreaks in the sub region.
“The conscious need for national governments to be aware of the ready availability of Chapter Members and Fellows to draw on for national and sub-regional services in meeting the medical manpower needs of the response to the pandemic in potential and actual areas of want in countries of the sub region.
“WACP wholeheartedly supports the recommendations of governments in the sub region that everyone should wear facemasks while out in public or in transit, maintain physical distancing and practice regular and frequent hand hygiene practices. These measures should be continued while the pandemic lasts.
“However, the College is concerned with the secondary and unwanted effects of total or near total lockdowns. The WACP therefore urges that the implementation and extent of lockdown should continue to be reviewed from time to time, and palliated as much as is possible.
“On behalf of WACP, I hereby assure the public and national governments in the sub region of the willingness of the WACP to offer her professional services and to assist where and when help is needed towards the successful mitigation of the pandemic in the sub region. Indeed, just as was done during the recent outbreak of Ebola, the WACP has directed country Chapters to form taskforces/groups for the purpose of actively interfacing with national and sub national governments to make their services available.
“The College is also desirous of thanking the many corporate bodies, development partners, donor agencies, overseas governments and friends of the sub region and Africa, and philanthropic/public spirited individuals and organizations.
“WACP would want to at least acknowledge, and necessarily commend, the efforts of the national public health institutions in the sub region, as well as the role of the sub regional, regional and global public health institutions in the response to the pandemic in the sub region. Among them, the efforts of the West African and African Centers for Disease Control, WAHO and the World Health Organization, should also be noted.”