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COVID-19: Focus on Africa

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COVID-19: Focus on Africa

Preamble
The novel Coronavirus outbreak that began in China has spread to more than 196 countries across the world. Regrettably, African countries find themselves among the affected nations. At the time of writing, there are 423,469 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 109,153 have recovered, while 18,909 have died, according to the Worldmeters compilation of government announcement made on March 25, 2020, 06:59 GMT. Consequently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the disease as a global pandemic.  
According to the latest data released by the WHO on COVID-19 in Africa, there are 1,400 confirmed cases across the continent, with a number of African

countries imposing a range of prevention and containment measures against the spread of the virus. The data further revealed that 42 out of 54 countries in Africa have reported cases of coronavirus. Hence, fears have been growing over Africa’s ability to protect its citizens from the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
Given these concerns, this week edition of ENGAGE NIGERIA critically analyses the current situation of coronavirus in Africa with a view of assessing the measures taken by state governments in preventing and containing the virus. In the coming weeks, we shall keep updating the debate on COVID-19 as it unfolds in different dimensions. 
Current Situation of Coronavirus 
The World Health Organisation’s data on COVID-19 in Africa reveals that 42 out of the 54 countries had been infected. On the other hand, more than 700 cases have been confirmed across the continent. Among the countries affected are: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Benin, 

 
Burkina-Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Gambia, Niger, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Chad, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, 

Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, 
Somali, Sudan, Tanzania, Djibouti, Mauritius, Madagascar, Angola, and Mozambique. The WHO has identified 13 of these countries as being more at risk of the coronavirus infection. According to the international health organisation, the countries at risks either have direct links with China or handle large volume of travel to China. The chart below shows the top ten most-affected African countries. 

Burkina-Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Gambia, Niger, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Chad, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, 

Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, 

Measures Adopted in Curbing Coronavirus 
Various screening and preventive measures are being implemented by African countries to control the spread of the virus. For instance, the Federal Government of Nigeria imposed a travel ban on 13 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. The government have shut down the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation programs, as well as the closure of schools – including higher institutions. Besides, state governments,  including Lagos, Ogun and Oyo have recently placed bans on religious and social gatherings within their states. However, as parts of measures
to mitigate the economic impact, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently announced six new monetary policies to cushion the effect of the virus on Nigeria businesses and the economy. The apex body announced a credit relief of $136.6m to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa, imposed travel bans to certain countries, instructed schools to close and outlawed large gatherings. He followed up with restrictions on restaurants and effectively closed bars, beating many worse-affected countries to the move. Also, the South Africa central bank cut interest rates by the most in more than a decade at its scheduled policy meeting and boosted liquidity in local markets. Furthermore, other affected countries in the continent have also imposed a range of prevention and containment measures against the spread of the pandemic. However, Africa’s porous land borders remain a cause for concern among policymakers and health professionals, who fear that unchecked migration and transportation between countries could spread the virus quickly. 
 
Conclusion and Recommendations 
There are 12 African countries that have not recorded a case of coronavirus as of Sunday, March 24, 2020, 21:13 GMT. Fourty-two African countries have officially recorded instances. The death toll had passed 40 while recoveries were also rising. Experts have stressed that it is only a matter of time before these countries likely detect cases even through much of the continent is closing borders to combat spread and improve the containment of confirmed cases. For these reasons, the provision of adequate funding to maintain and sustain an effective national disease surveillance system backed by a reliable laboratory network service is the first step in ensuring national health security and protection of citizens in the continent of Africa from the ravages and deaths caused by a coronavirus.
Secondly, governments of African states should work in partnership with the WHO, private sectors and civil society organisations to craft radio messages and Television programmes to inform the general public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken.
 
This preventive measure is essential for individuals and communities – as they remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of the virus in Africa.
Thirdly, there is an urgent need for more considerable resources to enhance capacity in low and middle-income countries. The requirements for training are wide-ranging and include surveillance and monitoring of infectious, clinical practice, epidemiological research, and use of new ICTs. In many cases, international training exchange programmes are required to enable the sharing of experiences and ideas across national contexts.
Fourthly, there is a need for enhanced training on the global dimensions of infectious diseases. Medical practitioners would benefit from a greater understanding of the potentially changing profile of infectious diseases as a result of increased population mobility, intensified trade in goods and services, climate change and other factors that link globalisation.
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