COVID-19: How ready is Namibia to battle the pandemic?

A report release by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation suggests Namibia is not entirely ready to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report also stated Namibia’s readiness to conduct effective point of entry screening and monitoring of travellers following the coronavirus pandemic.

The information contained in the report was according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC), which indicated that only 43 African countries now have the ability to test for Covid-19 as from 6 March 2020.

As of 29th March, Namibia reported 11 Covid-19 cases, of which 10 were confirmed to have been imported, while one is being investigated as a local transmission.

“However, countries are less prepared for the effective point of entry screening and monitoring of travellers (as per 20 February) and treatment of cases (as per 27 February),” the report said.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation report stated that in February, a number of African countries had no capacity to test for the virus, as there were only two laboratories on the continent – in Senegal and South Africa – that were capable of testing for the virus.

For the rest of the continent to step up its preparedness measures, 43 laboratories in 43 African countries have been equipped and trained to test for the virus.

Training was conducted through the Africa Taskforce for coronavirus (Afcor), an initiative between the African Union Commission (AUC), the World Health Organisaiton and Africa CDC.

“Several training exercises for incoming analysts as well as African experts and countries have been held to prepare for and enhance events-based surveillance. Twenty-two African Union (AU) member states were trained to strengthen infection prevention and control capacities in healthcare facilities and with the airline sector.

“Using a free online training course by the WHO, 11 000 African health workers have been trained on the virus and the Africa CDC has trained government officials from 26 countries in public information management.

“In addition, individual countries in Africa are taking steps to enhance their preparedness and to limit the risk of spreading the virus,” the foundation added.

According to data, the foundation noted that Africa is the worst performer when it comes to health related areas. However, it added that Namibia is faring well in terms of universal health coverage (UHC).

UHC means that all people and communities receive the quality health services they need, without financial hardship.

The 2017 average for the 52 African countries with data on out-of-pocket health expenditure amounts to 37,2% of their current expenditure on health, compared to a global average of 31,9%.

Moreover, 14 African countries had a share of out-of-pocket health expenditure that was higher than half of their current health expenditure – Nigeria being the worse, followed by Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.

“Meanwhile, five African countries – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda and South Africa – had a share of out-of-pocket health expenditure that was less than 10% of their current health expenditure,” said the Mo Ibrahim Foundation report.

According to the report, most of Africa’s coronavirus cases are imported from Europe, although Africa has close ties with China, where the outbreak first occurred.

Former health minister, who is also the Covid-19 task force chairperson Bernard Haufiku yesterday told The Namibian that he is concerned about Namibia’s testing coverage, and lack of facilities and equipment to contain the coronavirus.

Africa CDC has called on Africa to learn from how it dealt with Ebola, saying the main reasons for the rapid spread of the Ebola outbreak in 2014 was a lack of laboratory testing capacity, inadequate surveillance and reporting and difficulties with isolating patients.

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