Coronavirus: World Health Organization supports African states in early detection

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Dr Edith NKWEMBE, Microbiologist of INRB DRC using laboratory reagents to identify COVID-19

The global community is racing to slow down and eventually halt the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives and sickened tens of thousands of others. In Africa, the virus has spread to dozens of countries within weeks. Countries across the continent are striving to limit widespread infections: identifying, isolating and treating patients; restricting movement, heightening surveillance and stepping up health precautions.

Since the start of the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been supporting African governments with early detection by providing COVID-19 testing kits to countries, training lab technicians and strengthening surveillance in communities. Forty-five countries in Africa can now test for COVID-19. At the start of the outbreak, only two could do so.

WHO is also providing remote support to affected countries on the use of electronic data tools, so national health authorities can better understand the outbreak in their countries. Personal protective equipment has been shipped to 24 countries, and a second shipment is being prepared for countries with confirmed cases.

Lessons learnt in addressing previous epidemics are being used as a foundation to respond. Basic preventative measures by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. WHO is helping local authorities craft radio messaging and TV spots to inform the public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken. The Organization is also helping to counter disinformation in all the affected countries and is guiding countries on setting up call-centres and hotlines to ensure the public is informed.