Ethiopia intensifies coronavirus prevention efforts

An Egyptian Quarantine Authority employee holds out a health form to be filled in by incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on February 1, 2020, amidst efforts to detect possible cases of SARS-like "Wuhan coronavirus" (novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV). (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
An Egyptian Quarantine Authority employee holds out a health form to be filled in by incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on February 1, 2020, amidst efforts to detect possible cases of SARS-like “Wuhan coronavirus” (novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV). (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

The Ethiopian government has disclosed the formation of a national ministerial committee that envisaged closely monitoring ongoing efforts to contain a potential COVID-19 outbreak in Ethiopia.

According to a statement issued by the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the decision to assemble the high-level ministerial committee was made by the Ethiopian Council of Ministers in its latest meeting held over the weekend. It is composed of six Ethiopian ministers to closely monitor the ongoing COVID-19 prevention efforts in the East African country.

The move also came as Ethiopia, Africa’s second populous nation with an estimated population of over 107 million, intensified its efforts to contain possible COVID-19 outbreak in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), with particular emphasis on the country’s four international airports and 21 land border crossing points.

Noting that Ethiopian health authorities are tightening up surveillance, diagnosis, epidemic response coordination and public health education to swiftly detect cases and limit widespread infections, the WHO on Tuesday stressed that Ethiopia is among 13 African countries that it considers as top priority for COVID-19 preparedness.

“We are working hard day and night with the government to improve the critical measures needed to ensure that the country is ready to effectively respond to an outbreak of COVID-19. We have shipped in equipment for infection prevention and control and are supporting the training of health officials,” Boureima Sambo Hama, WHO representative to Ethiopia, has said.

According to the WHO, Ethiopia, home to one of Africa’s busiest international airline hubs, is bolstering preparedness to contain a potential outbreak of COVID-19.

Zewdu Assefa, head od Emergency Response Center at the Addis Ababa-based Ethiopian Public Health Institute, has said that strengthening epidemic response coordination, enhancing surveillance through screenings at the country’s international airports and land borders are some major measures of the country’s preparedness efforts.

In addition, an isolation center is being set up and more equipment and supplies needed to prevent and control a potential outbreak have been procured with the help of the WHO, according to Zewdu.

“We have also designated different treatment centers and mapped hospitals in preparation,” Zewdu said. “With the nature of this virus you need additional capacity in terms of supplies for infection prevention and control materials.”

The Ethiopian government has trained some 60 rapid response team members on coronavirus surveillance, medical care for patients, public health communication and countering misinformation and rumors.

“We are working with our partners to achieve the (required) standard level of preparedness,” said Zewdu, emphasizing that Ethiopia’s previous preparedness efforts in combating influenza and Ebola outbreaks were paying off for containing coronavirus.

Recent figures from the WHO and the Ethiopian government show that since January this year, no case of the novel coronavirus disease has been confirmed in the country.

The Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia said on Friday that it has been “very closely” following the epidemic situation since the COVID-19 outbreak, and has been taking a series of swift actions in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading into Ethiopia.

Addressing a press conference here on Friday, Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Tan Jian thanked the Ethiopian government and people for their sympathies and support for China in the COVID-19 fight.

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have expressed sincere sympathies to the Chinese people over the COVID-19 epidemic, and high appreciation of China’s effective response measures.

“The Chinese government and people highly appreciate it and will never forget,” the ambassador said.

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