AU calls for continent-wide response to contain COVID-19 in Africa

The African Union (AU) has stressed the crucial importance of fostering a continent-wide collective response in containing the spread of COVID-19 across the African continent.

The urgent call was made by the Peace and Security Council of the 55-member pan-African bloc in a statement issued on Thursday, which followed the Council’s latest meeting that dwelt upon the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Africa.

The council “stressed the importance of a continent-wide collective response to the COVID-19, and underlines the importance of emulating the best practices and lessons learnt from the successful fight against the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola virus disease outbreak, including the need to mobilize private sector resources,” the statement read.

The council further encouraged “all AU member states, with the support of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), to take necessary measures to prevent and to contain the spread of COVID-19, including ensuring appropriate measure in public gathering places, such as schools and churches.”

It also advised all African countries to strengthen local and national level capacity to test COVID-19, as well as to further enhance the general capacity of national health infrastructure.

Noting the urgent need to put in place an effective communication strategy concerning the coronavirus outbreak, the council further requested the Africa CDC “to effectively engage all media platforms, with a view to ensuring real time transmission of information relating to COVID-19, as well as to fight misinformation, which is exacerbating misconceptions and generating panic.”

As part of the continent-wide response against the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, the AU also called on the private sector and international partners for financial and material support.

It also underscored the importance of redoubling efforts in mobilizing the required financial, material and human resources in order to enable the Africa CDC to sustain its current operations and to be more effective in responding to COVID-19.

The council also commended the Africa CDC for “the relentless efforts being deployed in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, and emphasizes the importance of constant adjustments and adaptation in response to the evolution of the coronavirus situation on the ground.”

The council, which described the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Africa and beyond as an “existential threat to human life,” also stressed the outbreak’s “potentially devastating consequence on macro-economic fabric throughout the African continent as the situation continues to evolve.”

It also welcomed the recent communique adopted during African health ministers’ emergency meeting on the coronavirus disease outbreak, which was held on February 22 at the headquarters of the AU in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The ministerial emergency meeting had developed a guidance document for assessment, monitoring, and movement restrictions for people at risk for COVID-19 by member countries.

The council also requested the AU Commission Chairperson “to champion adequate responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, including through playing a lead role in mobilizing the resources required to effectively combat the COVID-19 scourge and to engage private sectors for their necessary support in responding to COVID-19.”

It also called on the Africa CDC “to immediately submit a supplementary budget to the relevant AU policy organs for approval so as to allow the Africa CDC to continue with its activities in responding to COVID-19 outbreak in the continent.”

The council further underscored the “urgent need” for the Africa CDC to brief the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) of the AU on the evolution of the situation as well as on the ongoing measures being deployed to effectively prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 throughout the African continent.

The AU Peace and Security Council’s call came a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday categorized the COVID-19 outbreak as a “pandemic” as the virus spreads increasingly worldwide.

The Africa CDC, a specialized healthcare agency of the AU, had disclosed that more than 100 COVID-19 cases were reported in 12 African countries, including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Tunisia.

The Africa CDC, which announced the shift from preparedness to response, also noted that the Africa Taskforce for Coronavirus Preparedness and Response (AFTCOR) is presently actively supporting African countries’ response, in which some 43 African countries now have the capacity to test for the virus and with support from the Africa CDC and the World Health Organization.

Source: Ghana News Agency