African health minsters call for increased vigilance to reduce surge in COVID-19 infections

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A health worker takes swab sample from a girl during COVID-19 mass testing exercise in Kangemi, Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Oct. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Joy Nabukewa)

Led by Republic of Congo Health and Population Minister, Jacqueline Mikolo, Africa’s health leaders called on governments to increase political commitment, information-sharing and medical research in the fight against COVID-19.

GABES, TUNISIA – AUGUST 24: : Health workers test people for possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection Al Hammah Range in Gabes, Tunisia on August 24, 2020. (Photo by Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The 70th session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa opened this week as nations within Africa deal with possible resurgences in COVID-19 infections.

Minister Mikolo reiterated the group’s commitment to preserving the gains made in fighting the pandemic and stated it was crucial to fight complacency in observing COVID-19 preventive measures by strengthening communication and epidemiological surveillance.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, underscored the importance of bolstering prevention, notably as people travel or gather for end-of-year celebrations.

“As we observe cases surge in parts of Europe and the Americas, and an uptick in our regional daily cases graph, we cannot be complacent. We need to prepare for a resurgence, including scaling-up precautions in risky situations such as festive and elections-related gatherings.”

Over the past three weeks, many African countries have recorded a steady increase in COVID-19 cases. As of 22 November, 18 countries reported an increase of more than 20% in the previous seven days when compared with the last seven days.

South African Minister of Health Hon. Zweli Mkhize shared lessons from his country’s experience in fighting the virus. The Minister stressed the need for governments to develop quick, evidence-based decisions, address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, and, as Minister Mikolo said, resist the urge to become complacent

“Right now, we are going through this COVID-19 fatigue, both from communities who are tired of wearing masks and [observing physical] distancing. We also have health workers who have been [through] a heavy burden, and now the resurgence is coming they are also showing a lot of fatigue. These are the areas we need to keep focusing on,” said Minister Mkhize.

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