AU beefs up preparedness for coronavirus outbreak

A summit at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo: Department of State)
A summit at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo: Department of State)

The Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) of the African Union (AU) has announced that enhanced efforts are underway to prepare for any possible outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19).

At his weekly press briefing on Friday at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Dr. John Nkengasong, Africa CDC director, said the center is coordinating efforts and activities on the continent’s preparedness and response for any possible outbreak of the COVID-19.

The continental taskforce, which comprises experts across Africa, is coordinated from five African countries –Senegal, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa — to oversee five major areas of surveillance, infection prevention and control, clinical management of patients with severe coronavirus infection, risk communication and community management.

“The uniqueness of this taskforce is that the ownership and leadership is shared by the AU, its member states and the World Health Organization,” Nkengasong said.

Stressing that efforts are well underway to enhance the diagnostic capacity of AU member states, the director said: “More than 16 countries now have the capacity to test (the coronavirus). And by the 28th of this month, another 20 labs will have the capacity to test. So, we are scaling up very rapidly across the continent in terms of diagnostics.”

The Africa CDC arrange daily emergency operation center meetings with AU member states as well as video conferences with representatives of national public health institutes, and produce and circulate a weekly update on the outbreak.